By Larry Lucas
Each February, we take time to honor our community’s great leaders, both past and present. Many, like Martin Luther King, Jr., overcame great obstacles and adversity to achieve their dreams. Today, we cannot continue to let our health be one of those obstacles. This month, take some time out to honor your body by taking steps to manage and prevent chronic conditions that could lead to more serious illnesses such as kidney disease.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in nine Americans has kidney disease, a condition that damages your kidneys and keeps them from performing normal functions. Kidney disease and several chronic conditions are interrelated: for example, high blood pressure and diabetes can lead to kidney disease and complicate it further. With 3.7 million African Americans aged 20 years or older living with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we must be more aware of the dangers of this condition. Even one of my favorite basketball stars, Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat, wasn’t aware he had kidney disease until he became very ill. Alonzo had to quit the NBA to receive a life-saving kidney transplant. After receiving the proper treatment, he is living a healthy life today and educating others on the dangers of this disease.
Kidney disease often progresses so slowly that many of those who have it, like Alonzo, are unaware of it until the condition is in its advanced stages. However, there are several minor symptoms people with kidney disease might notice before they are diagnosed. They may feel tired, have trouble sleeping or have to urinate more often than others, particularly at night. They may also notice swollen feet or ankles and muscle cramping at night.
Kidney disease can happen any age, making it vital for children, teens and adults to take care of themselves and fight against risk factors. With kidney disease being the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC, everyone should take the time to look at the risk factors and see where they stand.
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to prevent kidney disease. And, many of these steps help you fight off related conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, which is all the more reason to take action!
Get plenty of regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight and avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Also, be sure to get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly and follow-up with your doctor if any of these levels are high since you may need additional tests.
Finally, be sure to take any blood pressure or diabetes medication your doctor prescribes for you.
Blood pressure and diabetes medication can be a life saver for those who need it to prevent kidney disease and related conditions, but medicine such as this means nothing if those who need it most can’t afford it.
Patients who need help accessing prescriptions can turn to the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), which has connected 6 million patients in need to programs that provide free or nearly free medicines. For more information, patients can call 1-888-4PPA-NOW or visit www.pparx.org.
As we reflect on our great leaders during Black History Month, be a leader in your family and community by keeping yourself healthy and spreading the word for others to do the same.
Larry Lucas is a vice president for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).