By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer

March marks National Kidney Month, and D.C. still has the highest number of people with kidney failure, officials said. And African-Americans remained disproportionately impacted from the kidney disease.

“The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of residents with kidney failure in the country, creating an enormous public health challenge and placing a very serious physical and financial burden on those living with the disease,” said LaVarne A. Burton, President and CEO of the American Kidney Fund in a statement to the AFRO. “The nation’s capital is a perfect storm of risk factors for kidney disease. Neighborhoods with soaring rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, the leading causes of kidney failure, are predominantly minority. Minorities, in turn, are at higher risk for kidney disease and kidney failure.”

District residents and African Americans in particular, have the highest percentage of residents with kidney failure. (Courtesy Photo)

The kidneys are the bean shaped fist sized organs in your body that filter waste and water out of your blood, and help control blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep bones strong. They come in pairs and help the body produce urine. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) happened when the kidneys are damaged or stop working. If CKD gets bad it can lead to stroke, heart failure and death. Not only can people experience kidney failure but other issues can arise like kidney cysts, stones, and infections.

It’s referred to as a “silent killer affecting African Americans,” according to the American Kidne Fund. About 30 million Americans have kidney disease, and 20 million are at risk for developing the disease. It’s the 9th leading cause of death. And African Americans are three times as likely to develop kidney failure than Caucasians, the data showed.

African Americans represent about 13 percent of the population, but are 35 percent of the kidney failure cases. Other health factors that impact African Americans put them at risk for kidney failure. Diabetes if the number one cause of kidney failure among Black people. High blood pressure is the number two cause of kidney failure among African Americans. This is why awareness is key to stopping the disease.

“Kidney Month gives us an opportunity to shine a spotlight on kidney disease and to make people aware that it is often silent until the late stages, when kidney damage is so severe that patients must go on dialysis to stay alive,” Burton said. “But we work year-round to increase awareness of kidney disease and help people understand their risk and the need for prevention and early detection. In the past two years, we provided free kidney health screenings to more than 3,000 District residents at risk for kidney disease, and we are continuing our intensive education and intervention efforts in D.C. this year.”

Even though the numbers are grim there is hope because many cases of kidney disease are preventable by doing the following:

-Getting tested for kidney disease

– Maintaining a health lifestyle and managing the condition and

– Sharing information about the disease throughout the community so residents are prepared.

The American Kidney Fund is offering free screening throughout the U.S. For more information about screening in your area call 1-800-638-8299 or go to KidneyFund.org