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Black History

Kidney Disease Killed Tina, Barry & Other Black Stars



By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor
New Journal and Guide

Tina Turner was not the first famous African-American to die from kidney disease.

Barry White died from kidney disease at age 58 in 2003 while waiting for a kidney transplant. Natalie Cole died of heart failure at age 65 in 2015 on New Year’s Eve at a hospital in Los Angeles after undergoing a successful kidney transplant operation in 2009.

Madame C.J. Walker died in 1919 at age 51 of kidney failure and hypertension complications. Former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry suffered from kidney disease before he died from an accidental drug overdose at age 78 in 2014 after surviving prostate cancer and undergoing minor surgery for urinary tract infection in 2011.

“I didn’t know,” Ron Minor said in his 44-minute documentary that aired on public TV several years ago in the Washington, D.C. area. You can also watch his documentary “I Didn’t Know” on YouTube.

Minor, who used his retirement fund to pay for the $100,000-plus project, said chronic kidney disease is an epidemic. “I just want to get the word out.”

Although Blacks are two times more likely than Whites to receive a kidney disease diagnosis, a 2014 report by Stanford University and Sackler School of Medicine in Israel published online in Cell Reports showed the kidneys regenerate and repair themselves throughout life. Kidneys constantly grow and have the surprising ability to regenerate.

“This research tells us that the kidney is in no way a static organ,” said Benjamin Dekel, MD, PhD, a senior author of the paper and associate professor of pediatrics at Sackler.

He also serves as head of the Pediatric Stem Cell Research Institute at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. “The kidney, incredibly, rejuvenates itself and continues to generate specialized kidney cells all the time,” he said.

Dekel said, “It’s like a tree with branches in which each branch takes care of its own growth instead of being dependent on the trunk.”

The research, which was done with mice, also shows how the kidney regenerates itself. Instead of a single type of kidney stem cell that can replace any lost or damaged kidney tissue, slightly more specialized stem cells that reside in different segments of the kidney give rise to new cells within each type of kidney tissue.

So the good news is certain interventions may help kidneys self-repair. These interventions include regular follow-up visits to the doctor, as well as extensive lifestyle changes such as exercise, tobacco cessation, diet, and the right combo of supplements, such as vitamin supplements for iron, calcium, anemia, and vitamin D pills.

Experts suggest that you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Some physicians also recommend supplements that contain B vitamins, iron, vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin D. Talk to your doctor to find the treatment that is best for you.

Pay attention to foamy urine. Normal urine is clear, with a yellowish hue, with no blood or foam. But foam is different from bubbles. Everyone will have bubbles in the toilet after urinating. Foam, on the other hand, is white, and it stays in the toilet after you flush.

Foamy urine is a sign of protein in the urine, which is not normal. Kidneys filter the protein, but should keep it in the body. If kidneys are releasing protein into the urine, they are not working properly.

Kidney disease’s warning signs include dizziness, nausea, chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, erratic heartbeats, and unexplained weight loss.

Chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, although you can control it. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) develops when your kidneys lose their ability to filter blood. High blood pressure and diabetes are two of the most common causes of CKD.

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