It may sound odd that a recent study found a connection between being married to a person with kidney disease and increased risk for you -- but doctors see the findings as entirely logical. While kidney disease isnt itself contagious, a major risk factor -- lifestyle -- is. If youre not sick yet, you may still be able to stop the disease in its tracks... if you act fast. At Risk for Kidney Disease? Researchers at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan studied 178 patients whose kidney disease had advanced to the point where they required dialysis. Since its widely known that several causes of kidney disease (diabetes and hypertension) have genetic roots, they also studied 196 of their first- and second-degree relatives -- parents, siblings, children, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and half-siblings, as well as a control group from the general population. In order to determine whether husbands and wives also have a higher-than-average risk, the researchers compared these groups to 95 men and women married to chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. The researchers found that CKD was indeed prevalent in spouses of patients -- even more so than among their relatives, who shared their genetic traits. After compensating for age and other factors, researchers found that, compared with the control group, incidence of kidney disease was 2.55 times higher in relatives... and 2.8 times higher in spouses. These differences are statistically significant, meaning that having a husband or wife with kidney disease raises your risk more than having a relative who has it. Who Knew? Its concerning that so few people are familiar with the risk factors for CKD, I learned from Kerry Willis, PhD, head of scientific activities at the National Kidney Foundation -- she called it "a dangerous state of affairs" since people with CKD rarely experience symptoms until it reaches the late stages. Symptoms can include fatigue... weakness... difficult, painful urination... foamy urine... pink, dark urine (blood in urine)... puffy eyes... swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles, feet... increased thirst... and increased need to urinate (especially at night) -- but these are unlikely to arise until the disease is advanced. Thats when patients will likely end up with kidney failure and then require dialysis or a transplant to stay alive. Dr. Willis said that all adults should assess their risk for CKD. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or a family history of these conditions or of kidney disease, she advises going a step further. Get tested for kidney disease using a urine test for protein and a blood test to estimate kidney filtration rate. "This study suggests that spouses of dialysis patients should get tested, too, even if they have no other risk factors," she added. And you know Im going to stick in a reminder to follow a lifestyle that lessens the chance that youll get sick. To maintain kidney health, the National Kidney Foundation recommends... Dont smoke. Get plenty of exercise. Maintain a healthy weight. Follow a balanced diet. Drink alcohol only in moderation. Stay hydrated. The bonus is that living this type of lifestyle will also reduce your risk of developing several other serious medical conditions, including heart disease and colorectal cancer. What a deal! Source(s): Kerry Willis, PhD, senior vice president for scientific activities, National Kidney Foundation, New York City. www.Kidney.org.