ROCKFORD - According to the American Kidney Fund, 30 million Americans have kidney disease. However, African-Americans are four times more likely to get the disease. The NAACP spoke to residents on how they can make sure they are accessing the best care possible on Saturday.
Experts say there are different types of dialysis -- the treatment that takes over kidney filtering functions when they fail -- patients can consider. But, they stress prevention is the best form of treatment.
Access, choice and equity was the message Saturday afternoon. A panel of experts talked everything kidney disease in minorities and how to access different treatment options. Nephrologist Dr. Michael Robertson was a keynote speaker. He says due to the high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, up to 35% of African-Americans suffer from the disease.
"Not only do they get it more,” said Dr. Robertson. “But, they tend to advance more quickly. They start dialysis at an early age."
Experts say kidney disease can be prevented or at least slowed down. A low-fat, low salt diet, no smoking, exercising five times a week and regular visits to the doctor can all help.
"If you have a family history of diabetes,” said NAACP State Health Chair Vea Crawford. “[If you have a] family history of hypertension, or even a family history of kidney disease, you can start by doing some preventative measures."
Crawford says for those already in the late stages, choosing home dialysis treatment can be crucial to taking back control of one's life. In this option, patients are trained to perform their own treatment.
"You as an individual are not the disease,” said Crawford. “You are still the person with the disease and to be empowered to the best thing that you can for yourself."
Dr. Robertson says there are over 700 patients who need dialysis in the Stateline area -- and that many others are living with different stages of chronic kidney disease. He adds since it's a silent disease early on -- the count keeps growing.
"You may not know you have it,” said Robertson. “Our best opportunity is to treat and prevent progression is to treat early on. That can only be done if people are aware of kidney disease."
Rockford is one of four cities the Illinois NAACP is hosting kidney disease panels at. Others include Champaign, Springfield and Venice.
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