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African Americans and Kidney Disease: Making the Connection

Mar 09, 2016 03:42AM ● Published by Family Features

Kidney disease affects more than six million African American adults - one out of every six. Over time, kidney disease can lead to kidney failure. African Americans are nearly four times more likely to develop kidney failure than Caucasians.

The body has two kidneys, which filter extra water and waste from blood to make urine. They also help control blood pressure and make hormones the body needs to stay healthy. Kidney disease prevents the kidneys from filtering blood as they should, which can cause waste to build up in the body, leading to serious health problems.

The two main causes of kidney disease and kidney failure are diabetes and high blood pressure - health conditions that are more common among African Americans than whites. In fact, eight out of 10 new cases of kidney failure among African Americans are due to diabetes or high blood pressure. Yet African Americans are less likely to know that these conditions are connected to kidney disease. Heart disease and a family history of kidney failure can also increase the risk of kidney disease.

Research funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health uncovered an inherited trait that is more common in African Americans. People with this trait who also have kidney disease are twice as likely to develop kidney failure and tend to lose kidney function more quickly than those without the trait.

What You Can Do?

"During National Kidney Month in March - and throughout the year - the NIDDK encourages African Americans to make the connection between kidney disease and diabetes, high blood pressure, family history and heart disease," said Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, NIDDK director. "If you have a greater chance of developing kidney disease, get tested - and remember to talk with others about kidney health."

Getting Tested

Because early kidney disease has no signs or symptoms, getting tested is the only way to know if you have the disease. Doctors test for kidney disease with a urine test that checks for albumin, a type of protein in your urine, and a blood test that shows how well your kidneys are filtering.

Getting tested can lead to earlier treatment, which can help you avoid or delay kidney failure. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease - or a mother, father, sister or brother with kidney failure - don't wait to get tested.

Reaching Out

Talk with family members to find out if there is a history of kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease in your family and share this information with your health care provider. The NIDDK's Family Reunion Health Guide has tips for talking with relatives at family reunion gatherings or one-on-one.

You can also help others make the kidney connection by reaching out to members of your faith community. The Kidney Sundays toolkit shows you how to raise awareness within your faith community about the risks for kidney disease and the importance of getting tested.

Staying Healthy

To take care of your kidneys and overall health, try to partake in regular physical activity and eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat foods. Cut back on salt, limit how much alcohol you drink and if you smoke, take steps to quit.

Also, remember to take any diabetes, high blood pressure or heart medicines as your health care provider advises. Check your blood pressure and blood sugar levels regularly to make sure they are in the appropriate range.

Knowing what can increase your chances of developing kidney disease can help you prevent the disease or detect it early, so you can get treatment and avoid complications.

The NIDDK website has more information about kidney disease, kidney failure and related health topics. You also can connect with the NIDDK on Facebook and Twitter.

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