Risk factors for chronic kidney disease

What is a risk factor?

Risk factors are attributes, characteristics or exposures that increase the likelihood of a person developing a disease or health disorder.

Behavioural risk factors are health-related behaviours that individuals have the most ability to modify. Behavioural risk factors for chronic kidney disease (CKD) include:

  • smoking
  • diet
  • physical activity
  • alcohol consumption

Biomedical risk factors are bodily states that have an impact on a person’s risk of disease. Biomedical risk factors for CKD include:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure (also known as hypertension)
  • established cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, heart failure and stroke
  • overweight and obesity.

Some biomedical risk factors can be influenced by health behaviours. Others, such as type 1 diabetes, occur independently of behaviours. 

Fixed risk factors cannot be modified. Fixed risk factors for CKD include:

Other non-traditional risk factors such as use of certain medications, kidney stones, foetal and maternal factors, infections, and environmental factors are increasingly being recognised as threats to kidney health (Luyckx et al. 2017).

For most behavioural and biomedical risk factors there is no known threshold at which risk begins. The relationship between risk and disease is continuous – there is an increasing effect as exposure to the risk factor increases. Having multiple risk factors further escalates risk.

Controlling or managing risk factors can help reduce the risk of CKD. The progression of CKD can also be slowed by controlling risk factors and by appropriate disease treatment and management.

This section presents statistics on selected key risk factors that increase the risk of a person developing CKD.