Family history and kidney disease

Medically reviewed by
AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
Last updated
December 19, 2022

View Know Your Kidneys – a free doctor discussion guide and learn how to prevent and manage kidney disease

Both diabetes and high blood pressure run in families. You may be at risk for these diseases if a close relative (parent, grandparent or sibling) has been diagnosed with one or both of them. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney disease. 

Kidney disease also runs in families. You may be more likely to get kidney disease if you have a close relative with kidney disease.

Genes and lifestyle choices affect your health:

You get your genes from your parents. Your genes give you your personal traits, such as being tall or short, or having brown or blue eyes. Your genes can also increase your risk for (or help protect you from) diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease. However, having a family member with diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease does not mean that you will definitely have one of these diseases.

Your lifestyle and habits are how you choose to live each day. We cannot change our genes, but we can choose to live a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes this can help work against genes that increase your risk for disease. You can lower your risk for kidney disease by making healthy choices, such as:

  • Controlling your blood pressure
  • Controlling your blood sugar if you have diabetes
  • Following a low-salt, low-fat diet
  • Not smoking or using tobacco
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Exercising most days of the week

The only way to know how well your kidneys are working is to get tested.

Kidney disease often has no signs or symptoms until your kidneys are very badly damaged. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family member with kidney disease, ask your doctor about getting tested. If you do not know if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, ask your doctor if you should be tested for them. Finding and treating diabetes and high blood pressure early may help prevent kidney disease.

Learn more about the tests for kidney disease.

Help protect your family against kidney disease:

Share what you have learned to protect your family against kidney disease.

Let your family members know that your family's history of kidney disease puts them at risk and encourage them to ask their doctors about getting tested. Start a conversation today!

Here are some great tips on how to start conversations about kidney disease with your family