February is Black History Month and before it comes to an end, I’d like to take advantage of this celebration to remind the African American community about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. Due to high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, African Americans have an increased risk of developing kidney failure. We need to be aware of these risk factors and visit the doctor or clinic regularly to check our blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, urine protein and kidney function.
My father was diabetic and my brother died from complications of kidney disease due to diabetes, so I know all too well what it’s like to deal with a chronic illness or to be hooked up to a dialysis machine.
Three quarters of African American women are obese and so many health problems stem from that. These women resign themselves to the fact that they will get the “sugar” as they refer to diabetes. But that’s not the way it has to be. Type 2 Diabetes, which causes kidney disease and so many other problems, is totally preventable. Being healthy is not just for the sake of the individual, but rather for the greater good. If you work hard to stay healthy, you not only avoid the huge health care costs, but the horror of passing disease down as a legacy through generations.
So what can you do? Healthy eating can help prevent kidney disease and the major factors that lead to it –diabetes and high blood pressure. Regular physical activity and a balanced diet, low in sugar, salt and fat can make a big difference. And the best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice taste either–with a few tweaks and substitutions, you can enjoy healthier versions of the same foods.
In addition to controlling your weight, make sure you know your family health history. Does kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease run in your family? If you think you might be at risk, visit your doctor for a checkup. Three simple tests can check for kidney disease. And remember, if caught early, the progression of kidney disease can be slowed or prevented.
B. (“Barbara”) Smith is a celebrated restaurateur, author, TV personality and lifestyle expert. To learn more visit her at www.BSmith.com