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The Importance of Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

By April 17, 2023April 28th, 2023Expert Advice Well-being
A senior patient and his son talk to a doctor

Chronic kidney disease is on the rise in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 7 adults in the U.S. are living with chronic kidney disease. That’s approximately 37 million people. Chronic kidney disease can affect anyone, but certain populations are at increased risk. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, African Americans are nearly four times as likely to have kidney failure, and Hispanic Americans are 1.3 times more likely compared to white Americans.

Even more concerning is that as many as 9 out of 10 people who have chronic kidney disease don’t know they have it. Often there are no symptoms when the disease is in its early stages (stages 1 through 3), so it can easily go undetected. Once chronic kidney disease is more advanced (stage 5), it is called end-stage kidney disease. At this stage, the kidneys have stopped functioning properly and these patients need regular dialysis to filter toxins from their blood. They are often on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, which can take years.

What Causes Chronic Kidney Disease?

Diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) are common causes of chronic kidney disease. That means diet and exercise are critical to keeping your kidneys healthy and preventing chronic kidney disease.

Having an annual physical exam and/or annual wellness exam gives your doctor a chance to review your bloodwork to see if there are any signs of kidney decline. It is especially important to see a doctor regularly if you have borderline hypertension, pre-diabetes, diabetes, a family history of chronic kidney disease, or you belong to a group that has a higher risk.

Early Detection is Key

There is good news: Early detection and early treatment of chronic kidney disease can slow or halt its progression. For those diagnosed with kidney disease, there are two lab tests doctors can use to monitor its progression: an eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) and a urine microalbumin test.

People can live a high-quality life when diagnosed and treated with kidney disease in early stages. When it is caught early, it is possible to avoid a kidney transplant or dialysis. It can be lifesaving.

The keys to successfully living with chronic kidney disease in the early stages are:

  1. Having regular check-ups with your doctor and being tested
  2. Taking medications as prescribed to treat and stabilize the health issues that contribute to kidney disease (including diabetes and high blood pressure)
  3. Increasing physical activity, such as walking, to promote blood flow throughout the body, which improves kidney function
  4. Eating a kidney-friendly diet

Independence Blue Cross works directly with in-network doctors who treat kidney disease (called nephrologists) to make sure members get consistent, high-quality care. We also outreach to some in-network doctors who treat our members who have diabetes but have not completed a screening for kidney disease. We get authorization from the doctor to mail the member a kit that screens for kidney disease.

Extra Support for Members Living with Chronic Kidney Disease

The Independence Blue Cross Kidney Care program launched in 2021. The mission of the program is to improve the quality of care for our members with chronic kidney disease and find new ways to address the rising numbers.

Medicare Advantage members who have advanced chronic kidney disease and end-stage kidney disease may have more complex care needs. To help these members, we’ve contracted with Strive Health to offer them access to a local team specialized in care management, including nurse practitioners, registered nurse care managers, social workers, dietitians, pharmacists, and care coordinators.

If you hear from one of Strive Health’s “Kidney Heroes” (kidney coaches), I hope you will take the call. They are very good at helping our members navigate the demands of their overall health care and kidney care.

Independence Blue Cross members can call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583) (TTY/TDD: 711) to talk to a Registered Nurse Health Coach if they have concerns about their health or to learn more about our case management programs.

Independence Blue Cross offers Medicare Advantage plans with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Independence Medicare Advantage plans depends on contract renewal.

Website last updated: 03/07/2023


Joanne Seader, RN, BSN, CDN

I have been a Registered Nurse for more than 30 years and have spent more than a decade in kidney care leadership. I spent my early career as a staff nurse in ICUs and dialysis centers. Later, I moved into education and leadership roles. Within minutes of talking with me, you will detect my relentless passion for improving all areas of kidney health. I also play the guitar, dabble in art, and love corny jokes.