Know your risks for kidney disease: Are you the 1 in 3 people affected?


The Mount Baker Foundation is sponsoring a Kidney Health Awareness Initiative to help reduce the number of people in Whatcom County who experience kidney disease. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is called the silent epidemic because symptoms often do not appear until the disease is advanced.

The on-going public awareness campaign began in March to coincide with National Kidney Month. Bill Lombard, past medical director, Mt. Baker Kidney Center and MBF board member, said “One in three, or 33 percent of adults are at risk for kidney disease and most of us don’t know it. We want to change that through community education.”

According to Mount Baker Foundation, 37 million people in the U.S. have kidney disease, but only one in 10 people know they have it.

So what is the big deal with kidneys? Although people only need one, most have two kidneys that filter 150 quarts of fluid from blood and absorb everything we need – water, nutrients and electrolytes – while the rest, such as toxins, are excreted through urine.

Lombard asks the community to take a one minute quiz to check their risk for kidney disease at and share the results with their primary care provider. He emphasized that diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney failure. Kidney failure is also more common in people 60 and older, those with heart disease and people who are Black, Hispanic and Native American.

“We hope to reduce the number of people arriving for dialysis, particularly without having seen a nephrologist first,” he said. “We can do this by increasing awareness of the importance of kidney health and by encouraging primary care providers to review risk factors with their patients periodically.”

Dialysis is a medical treatment for kidney failure that helps people’s bodies remove toxins through filtering blood by a machine. People who need dialysis can be treated at a healthcare facility, which is 3-5 hours three times per week, or they can be treated at home. People who are treated at home can expect shorter treatments more frequently, 5-7 days per week. Those seeking dialysis treatment need to restrict the amount of food and fluid entering their body.

In Bellingham, 40 percent of people who start dialysis have never seen a kidney specialist, Lombard said during a recent presentation on kidney disease.  

Lombard stated that 48 percent of people with severely reduced kidney function and not on dialysis are not aware of having CKD. With proper treatment, it is possible to slow the progression of kidney disease but if kidneys fail, treatment options include dialysis, a transplant, or palliative care in certain circumstances. The kidney awareness initiative will encourage living donor participation. 

Last year only 21,000 donor organs were available for transplant, but there were more than 100,000 people in the United States on the kidney transplant list, with a 3-4 year wait.

A key goal of the foundation’s initiative is to demystify the amazing 24/7 work that kidneys do to ensure the best quality of life possible.

For details on the initiative, visit

The Mount Baker Foundation is a not-for-profit formed as a legacy board and beneficiary of the community benefit from the sale of the Mt Baker Kidney Center to DaVita Health Partners. The vision of the founders is to contribute to “Individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities becoming stronger, healthier, more resilient and more compassionate, generation after generation.”

The foundation’s mission is to “Identify and fund catalytic, transformative initiatives that result in sustainable change.” It focuses on early childhood care, development, and education; upstream factors leading to chronic disease; and quality of life and quality of care of kidney disease and dialysis patients.

“It’s really important to find out early because then you can prevent or delay the progression of kidney disease and kidney disease’s nature is progressive,” Lombard said during his presentation. “If you have chronic kidney disease, you tend to lose function overtime and ultimately end up with kidney failure. But treating it early can delay that.”

This article was written by information compiled from Mount Baker Foundation


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