Weekend festival to warn African Americans of kidney disease

SEATTLE - Healthcare advocates will reach out to African Americans in Seattle this weekend to warn about their risk of developing kidney disease.

The Northwest Kidney Centers reports one in seven American adults has kidney disease. In the African American community, the number increases four-fold. Although African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, 35 percent of individuals with kidney failure on dialysis are African American. In addition, African American men are 10 to 14 times more likely than Caucasian men to develop kidney failure due to high blood pressure.

Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb, director of the Kidney Research Institute in Seattle, says it is not clear why African Americans have such high rates, but many factors are likely to blame, including a prevalence of diabetes, genetic factors and access to healthcare.

Himmelfarb says it is important that African Americans learn about their risk. Kidney disease has unspecific symptoms so many do not know they have the disease until it becomes advanced, he said.

"Whatever can be done to reduce healthcare disparities it's important we do that," Himmelfarb said. "Any day is a good day to be tested if you're a high risk category."

The Northwest Kidney Centers will hold its 11th annual Kidney Health Fest for African American Families on June 22, featuring free health screenings, education, entertainment and healthy food made by local celebrity chefs.

"Everyone is welcome to attend the Fest, have fun and learn about kidney disease and healthy living - and it's completely free!" said Dr. Bessie Young, a Seattle kidney specialist. "Bring your friends and family and make a day of it. People of every age can have fun while they learn how to keep their families healthy."

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