“For all we knew, it was just diabetes,” Jenkins said. “Now we’re trying to make everybody in our family aware than not only does high blood pressure do damage to your heart, it also does damage to your kidneys.”
Smith and Jenkins attended the American Kidney Fund’s Kidney Action Day at the Kroc Center on Saturday, and their story represents what the event is all about: raising awareness.
LaVarne Burton, the president and CEO of the American Kidney Fund, said kidney disease is the ninth-leading cause of death in the nation and the eighth-leading cause of death in Georgia. It is prevalent, but it doesn’t have to happen, Burton said.
Knowing the risk factors – high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, race and age – is the first step toward preventing kidney failure.
Organizations such as American Renal Associates and U.S. Renal Care offered screenings for kidney disease Saturday and information about the disease, treatment options and prevention.
“What those companies are saying is, ‘We take care of people once they’re in kidney failure. We’ve got enough patients. This is not a disease you have to have,’” Burton said.
The event offered a variety of other health information such as eye exams, glucose screenings, healthful eating and Zumba demonstrations. Georgia Regents University’s Ryan White Outreach Team offered free HIV testing.
Inflatables and face painting kept children entertained while their parents went from table to table.
Sabrena Martin jumped into a Zumba routine and said she was having a great time. She said she especially appreciated the opportunity to have free health screenings. She had her glucose and cholesterol levels and her blood pressure checked.
Martin heard about the event on the radio, and when she and her mother, Deloris Ryan, finished exercising at Kroc Center, they decided to see what it was about.
“I learned about lots of health organizations that give benefits to people regardless of income level. It doesn’t pertain to me personally, but it’s great to know just for people you may know (that need it),” she said.
She said she hopes the event will be held again.
“I’ll definitely spread the word,” she said.