By Yenny Love
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration that marks the perfect time to remind our community of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. You may not know this, but Hispanic Americans have a high rate of diabetes, which increases our chances of developing kidney disease. In fact, about 2.5 million Hispanic Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, while more than 14% of all new patients with kidney failure are Hispanic.
My brother was diagnosed with kidney disease just a few years ago, when he was in high school. I have seen firsthand how hard it can be to live with a chronic illness or depend upon a dialysis machine to keep you alive. My family and I were in a state of disbelief. And I can also tell you how surprised I was by the amount of misinformation that exists in the Hispanic community, where home remedies are often the way ailments are treated. But the news doesn’t have to be so bleak or scary. Understanding the risk factors for certain diseases where we suffer in high percentages will increase awareness in our community and help us live healthier lives. These risks include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and elevated cholesterol levels—conditions that can lead to kidney disease among Hispanic adults and children.
Since kidney disease has a higher prevalence in our community, I must stress the importance of screening and knowing your family health history. This information can result in slowing down or preventing the progression of the disease. Making small lifestyle tweaks—regular exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and visiting your doctor annually to check your blood sugar, blood pressure, and kidney function—are easy ways to keep you healthy for years to come.
As for my brother, he was fortunate enough that our older brother was a match to donate, and he received a successful kidney transplant. Now, we’re determined to spread the word about kidney disease in the hopes others will take action to live a healthy life.
Yenny Love is an actress, writer, and producer. She is also one of the founders of the East Harlem International Film Festival.