Nick Cannon speaks out
The National Kidney Foundation has launched a new online portal on kidney disease geared specifically for African Americans. The portal offers healthy lifestyle tips, a Kidney 101 section, an online risk quiz and information about dialysis and transplantation.
There’s good reason for this initiative.
African Americans are almost four times as likely as whites to develop kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Disease Education Program. While blacks constitute only 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for one third of those with kidney failure. That’s because diabetes and high blood pressure—both of which are prevalent in the black community—are the two largest contributors to kidney failure.
The problem is that unless you are regularly screened for the disease it can sneak up on you. “In the beginning, it is silent,” said Winfred W. Williams, M.D., in a recent interview. Dr. Williams is the director of the Program in Interventional Nephrology for the Transplantation Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Nephrology is the treatment of kidney diseases.
Damage progresses slowly and quietly through five stages. Stage 5 when kidney function falls to 15 percent is considered end-stage kidney failure. At that point, only two procedures—dialysis or transplantation—can keep a person alive.
The good news, as Dr. Williams reported, is that it is possible to halt or slow down the progression of kidney disease. Strict adherence to blood pressure control and certain medications called ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers), can be critical. “These medications are often kidney protective,” he said, “and a first line of attack.”
Compliance with medication and lifestyle—healthy eating, exercise, blood pressure and weight control and not smoking—can often prevent kidney failure and may stop its progression.
People tend not to give their kidneys a second thought—until they fail. Much like comedian Rodney Dangerfield, kidneys get no respect for the yeoman work they do to keep us healthy. They filter the blood to ensure certain nutrients, such as proteins and sugar, remain available to the body while removing metabolic waste as urine. They keep a healthy balance of several minerals like potassium, which helps muscles, including the heart, function normally. They make vitamin D, one of the hormones necessary for bone health. They stimulate the formation of red blood cells and they play a key role in regulating blood pressure.
Nick Cannon agrees. “I never gave my kidneys a second thought until I ended up in the hospital. The kidneys filter out toxins in the blood, acting as the body’s purifier, but unless they stop working, so many of us pay no attention,” said the actor and comedian, who is a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation. “The fact is there are 26 million Americans with kidney disease and most don’t know it. So none of us can afford to ignore this anymore.”
Besides diabetes and high blood pressure, other risk factors for kidney failure are heart disease and family history of kidney failure. Those at risk should be screened regularly. Simple blood and urine tests can check how well the kidneys are working.
The GFR, or glomerular filtration rate, tests how well your kidneys are filtering, while urine tests check for albumin in your urine. Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.
Through the Kidney Early Evaluation Program, or KEEP, the National Kidney Foundation provides free screening and education information to those of high risk. The sooner you know you have kidney disease, the sooner you can get treatment to help delay or prevent kidney failure.
For more about kidney disease, go to Bay State Banner.