'Reform Your Own Health' During National Kidney Month

Mar 19, 2010, 14:09 ET from American Clinical Laboratory Association

WASHINGTON, March 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- No matter what Washington does on health reform, there's a lot you can do to reform your own health -- and two of the best places to start are your kidneys.

So says Dr. Ronald Weiss, chairman of Results for Life, an educational campaign of the American Clinical Laboratory Association. "March is more than just basketball and the start of spring.  It is also National Kidney Month.  And when you realize that some 27 million Americans have chronic kidney disease (CKD), we can't think of a better time to remind people that inexpensive lab tests can help protect and save lives, as well as dollars."

Diabetes is the primary cause of kidney failure, accounting for some 44 percent of new cases of CKD. High blood pressure also can cause the disease. Unfortunately, CKD often goes undetected because there are few symptoms -- yet it has many devastating complications.  These include kidney damage, kidney failure, anemia, and cardiovascular disease.

The prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure is growing rapidly, putting ever more Americans at risk for CKD.

Two inexpensive lab tests are critical in detecting CKD, says Weiss, who is also Executive Vice President of Health Policy, External Affairs, and Corporate Communication at the University of Utah's ARUP Laboratories in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The urine albumin test measures excessive protein in urine and costs about $7.25, he says. The other test is the serum creatinine which estimates Glomerular Filtration Rate, or eGFR -- an indication of how well kidneys are removing waste from the patient's blood.  That test runs about $10.

In comparison to the low costs of the tests, kidney dialysis -- which often results from CKD -- runs about $72,000 a year for a single patient.  Overall the U.S. spends some $60 billion annually to treat kidney disease and the illnesses that result from it.

"This is an object lesson in the value of early diagnosis and prevention," says Weiss. "We want people to be aware of the importance of getting regular checkups from their doctor and the right tests for diabetes and kidney disease. This is especially important for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, who suffer from kidney disease comparatively much more frequently."

"When you think about it, this is the kind of health reform Americans could get behind without much debate," says Weiss.

The American Clinical Laboratory Association is a non-profit group representing the nation's clinical reference laboratories. Results for Life, the group's educational campaign, focuses on the value of laboratory medicine. See www.labresultsforlife.org

SOURCE American Clinical Laboratory Association