Kidney Action Day Draws Hundreds

Gale Horton Gay | 9/12/2012, 9:51 a.m.

Kidney disease was on the minds of hundreds of people who turned out for the Kidney Action Day held last Saturday at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.

The annual event, sponsored by the American Kidney Fund [AKF], included a number of screenings, information booths and activities ranging from tai chi to group exercise. The goal was to raise awareness about kidney disease.

LaVarne A. Burton, AKF president and CEO, said she was glad to see smiles on many faces because happy people are better able to focus on important matters such as health.

"The number of Americans impacted by chronic kidney disease is already alarming [31 million], but what is even more shocking is that here in the Washington, D.C. metro area, rates of kidney disease are above the national average," said Burton.

The highlight of the event was a screening area in the middle of the complex's gymnasium where volunteers conducted free blood pressure, blood glucose and kidney disease screening tests. After participants completed a form about their health, they had their blood pressure taken followed by a prick of their fingers for the blood glucose test. Based on the screenings' results and answers they provided about family health history and lifestyle, a counselor advised if they were at risk for kidney disease and whether they should proceed for the final drawing of blood for the kidney disease test. While the blood pressure and glucose results were immediate, participants have to wait to receive their kidney function test results, which are expected to arrive in the mail in about a week.

More than 500 people turned out for the event and some 250 individuals participated in the screenings.

Harry Rideout of Mount Rainier said "everybody should take advantage of any free health screening."

Rideout, 45, said he was motivated to attend the event because a doctor had told him that he had several "borderline" health issues.

Melvin Anderson, 70, of District Heights said, "I think it's really important to know what your vital signs are, to know what's best to make you a healthier you."

As the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States, kidney disease affects 31 million Americans, according to AKF. Hypertension and diabetes are the primary causes of kidney disease, however infections, inherited diseases and injuries are also causes.

Those who are at greater risk for kidney disease are individuals who have diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS and family histories of kidney disease. Also persons who are African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian also are at greater risk for the disease.

Throughout the four-and-a-half-hour event, fitness and healthy food demonstrations took place as well as an array of other activities such as massages and performances such as clogging and dance. By the time the event was half-way through, a line of 20 or so people had formed for the free glaucoma screenings.

"The best defense we can give to at-risk individuals is education and awareness so that this devastating disease can be slowed or avoided altogether, and Kidney Action Day is designed to do just that," said Burton.