Assistant Managing Editor
GREATER SPRINGFIELD National Kidney Month may have passed with the end of March but the health of these vital organs is paramount year-round.
One in 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and 93,877 people on the United Network for Organ Sharing's transplant wait list, the highest number for any organ on the list by more than 76,000 applicants. The National Kidney Foundation's New England Chapter is expanding its operations in Western Massachusetts and helping to raise awareness with periodic health screenings the next on April 9 and a 5K walk in Forest Park in Springfield this summer.
"I always tell my patients, God was benevolent when it came to kidneys and he gave us two one more than we need," Dr. Jonathan Slater of Pioneer Valley Nephrology in Springfield, said.
He was quick to note that although most people are born with two or an extra, so to speak, that doesn't mean they should take it for granted, especially those with diabetes or high blood pressure, which are the number one and two causes of kidney disease, respectively.
"A healthy lifestyle helps the kidneys and overlaps with cardiovascular health, including blood pressure control, weight control, good diet, blood sugar control and not smoking," Slater explained.
He called the kidneys "a blood cleaning machine," which works non-stop everyday and is vital to each person's overall long-term health.
Slater explained that kidneys face other problems such as stones, which "can cause irreversible kidney damage" but that many steps can be taken to "impact the natural health of the kidney over time."
Filomena Fiore, regional event director for the National Kidney Foundation's New England Chapter, said the best advice her organization offers people is to "make sure you know your family history and if you have high blood pressure make sure you know your numbers such as your GFR [glomerular filtration rate]. Kidney disease can be prevented with the right diet and exercise."
The GFR is the indicator used to determine the stage of chronic kidney disease in patients.
Fiore noted that funds raised from this year's Kidney Walk on June 5 would go toward public education and disease prevention programs. She said the foundation has set a fund-raising goal of $100,000 and 700 walkers participating.
"I think all of us need to be reminded of our good fortune to be temporarily able. We have a responsibility as citizens and neighbors not to rely on government but our own volunteerism to be of help to those who are not and especially to eradicate these kinds of maladies," Dr. Evan Dobelle, honorary walk chair and president of Westfield State University, said.
Registration for the Kidney Walk will begin at 9:30 a.m. and the walk will start at 10:30 a.m.
To donate to this year's walk, to start a walk team or for more information, visit www.kidney.org or contact Fiore at firstname.lastname@example.org (860) 257-3770.
The National Kidney Foundation's next free kidney health screening will take place April 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Emerson Hall, Mason Square, 439 Union St., Springfield. Participants must be 18 years of age or older and must call (800) 441-1280 for an appointment.
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