Your neighborhood may be raising your risk for kidney disease

PHILADELPHIA — Studies have shown your income level and education history can play a role in how healthy you are. Now, a new report says the community you live in can factor in as well. Researchers in Philadelphia find a neighborhood’s socioeconomic status can influence a resident’s risk for chronic kidney disease.

The study led by Drexel University looks at 23,692 adult Philadelphians between 2016 and 2017. Comparing health records to the income levels, educational status, and occupations of those residents, the study finds people in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have kidney disease than more affluent neighborhoods.

Study authors also say the ability to easily walk through these communities makes a big difference. Neighborhoods with poor walkability scores show a connection to poor blood sugar control in patients with chronic kidney disease. In people without kidney disease, the score shows a link to poor blood pressure control. The study adjusts for the age, race, sex, and insurance level of each Philadelphian.

“Our finding, that people who are living in neighborhoods with the fewest resources are at highest risk for kidney disease, should be a call to health providers to integrate knowledge about their patients’ environments in their care processes, and to policymakers to allocate resources to at-risk communities that will promote health,” senior author Meera Harhay says in a university release.

“Our results also show that neighborhood environments that promote physical activity are protective when it comes to blood pressure and blood sugar management, whereas less walkable neighborhoods might exacerbate conditions that are risk factors for kidney disease.”

A hidden kidney disease epidemic?

Chronic kidney disease results in damage to those organs leaving them unable to properly filter out waste and fluids from the blood. If kidney problems aren’t found early enough, the damage can lead to kidney failure and force patients to undergo dialysis treatments or a transplant.

Researchers say there are about 37 million people in the United States suffering from some level of kidney disease. They add that nine out of 10 of these cases are undiagnosed.

“This study offers tools to help identify communities at higher risk of kidney disease at earlier stages so their condition can be managed to prevent end-stage kidney disease from developing,” Harhay adds. “Health providers should consider incorporating knowledge about neighborhood-level social determinants of health when they are assessing their patients.”

The study says the findings provide valuable insights for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose Advancing American Kidney Health Initiative is trying to reduce the number of Americans with renal disease by 25 percent in the next 10 years.

The study appears in the journal SSM Population Health.

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