African Americans constitute more than 35 percent of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure. (Courtesy of
African Americans constitute more than 35 percent of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure. (Courtesy of

The National Kidney Foundation has found that because of high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, African Americans have an increased risk of developing kidney failure.

Foundation officials said African Americans need to be aware of these risk factors and visit their doctor or clinic regularly to check their blood sugar, blood pressure, urine protein and kidney function.

Tests reveal that African Americans suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate than whites — more than 3 times higher. African Americans constitute more than 35 percent of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure, but only represent 13.2 percent of the overall U.S. population.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in African Americans, who are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as whites. Also, African Americans over 20 years of age are living with either diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.

The most common type of diabetes in African Americans is Type 2 diabetes, foundation officials said.

The risk factors for this type of diabetes include: family history, impaired glucose tolerance, diabetes during pregnancy, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, obesity and physical inactivity.

Further, African Americans with diabetes are more likely to develop complications of diabetes and to have greater disability from these complications than whites and African Americans are also more likely to develop serious complications such as heart disease and strokes.

High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure among African Americans, and remains the leading cause of death due to its link with heart attacks and strokes, according to the foundation.

“The homes of urban African Americans with risk factors for chronic kidney disease were often lacking either the foods or needed appliances for preparing [appropriate] meals,” said Dr. Deidra Crews, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who studies the disparity. “Interventions to improve the dietary quality of this high-risk group should consider these factors.”

Crews told reporters that she’s looking at whether improving eating habits can help address the differences.

Reportedly, people who eat diets rich in meat, cheese, eggs and other animal-based foods tend to have a higher acid load in their bodies that some research has shown can injure the kidney. Fruits and vegetables have more alkaline qualities.

Crews is a principal investigator of a study that is trying to determine if eating meals high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and lean meats can protect the kidneys and reduce kidney damage.

As part of the study, called the 5+ Nuts & Beans for Kidneys, participants will get free healthy groceries from ShopRite supermarket. The study is sponsored by Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

This study, which targets low-income East Baltimore residents who have high blood pressure and early kidney damage, will test the effectiveness of dietary advice delivered by a study coach and assistance with weekly online ordering of $30 worth of potassium-rich foods delivered by a local grocer to a community location for reducing urinary albumin excretion among African Americans with hypertension and chronic kidney disease.

Participants will be recruited from primary care clinics in Baltimore. Approximately 150 African-American adults diagnosed with hypertension and with mild/moderate chronic kidney disease based on the presence of albuminuria will be randomly assigned to one of two arms for 12 months.

There are two phases of the study. In Phase 1 (months 1-4), one study arm will consist of minimal guidance from the study team and a weekly allowance of $30 to purchase food and drinks of their choosing from a local grocer.

During Phase 1, the second arm of the study will receive dietary guidance from the study coach and assistance with ordering and purchasing $30 worth of high-potassium foods each week from the same local grocer.

In Phase 2 (months 5-12) neither study arm will receive a food allowance; however, the second arm will receive telephonic visits and dietary advice from the study coach.

“People who live in poverty have less healthy dietary patterns and their dietary patterns could influence the rate of kidney disease,” said Crews, who is also the medical school’s associate vice chair for diversity and inclusion.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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