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The Silent Killers: Hypertension and Chronic Kidney Disease

Hypertension, which puts you at risk for heart disease–the leading cause of death globally, is also heavily linked to chronic kidney disease (CKD). Following only diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or hypertension, is the second leading cause of CKD in American adults. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the US with high blood pressure may have CKD. Hypertension causes damage to blood vessels throughout the body, including the kidneys, as the vessels constrict and limit blood flow. If it continues, whether due to a lack of awareness or treatment, high blood pressure can cause CKD to worsen in patients regardless of what stage of the disease they are in. These factors make it extremely important for people to know their risk factors and check in with their providers for recommended testing. 

The Silent Killers

Both CKD and hypertension have earned the infamous title of being a “silent killer.” Much like with CKD, high blood pressure is mostly asymptomatic until it’s too late–leading to complications such as heart attack, heart failure, stroke, vision loss, and kidney damage. CKD, similarly, doesn’t have symptoms until the later stages, when treatment may include dialysis or transplant. 

Before these life-threatening and costly outcomes arise, you can have hypertension and/or CKD and feel completely healthy. About 90% of people with CKD and 1 in 3 US adults with high blood pressure aren’t even aware they have it and are not being treated, emphasizing the importance of regular testing and check-ups to help increase early detection–allowing people to be proactive about their health. 

Getting Tested

The CDC recommends that those with high blood pressure should talk to their doctor about getting tested for chronic kidney disease. Albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR) testing can provide critical insights into both kidney and heart health to decrease the burden of CKD and hypertension on patients, plans, providers, and the health system as a whole. 

However, testing cadence guidelines for providers are unclear. Clinical recommendations state that people with diabetes, the leading risk factor for CKD, be tested annually, but there is no such guidance for people with hypertension, leaving it largely up to the patient or provider to control. 

Simplifying the Solution

Almost 1 in 2 US adults have high blood pressure, making it an extremely large subset of at-risk patients without explicit testing guidelines. To help raise awareness around CKD for the nearly 108 million people in the US with hypertension, the National Kidney Foundation is encouraging people to take a one-minute quiz to assess their risk. 

For people whose results indicate they are at a higher risk for CKD, a Minuteful Kidney test kit will be sent to them directly as an easy way to check kidney health from home. Minuteful Kidney simplifies ACR testing by allowing those at-risk to test at their convenience and receive instant, clinical results on their smartphone. We hope by providing a solution that engages members, providers, and health plans, plans can increase test completion rates, gain key health insights, and boost the early detection of CKD–ultimately saving people from the silent killers. 

Those with high blood pressure should connect with their health plan or provider about getting tested for CKD or take the quiz now.

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