Profile of Hope: Debra Jackson talks about the lifestyle changes she made after learning she had kidney disease caused by her high blood pressure

Editor June 14th, 2011

Debra Jackson was born and raised in Harlem and has worked at Columbia University's Teachers College Press for the past ten years Since being diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) over 25 years ago, Debra recently made lifestyle changes to improve her health after learning she had stage 4 kidney disease.

Debra Jackson was born and raised in Harlem and has worked at Columbia University's Teachers College Press for the past ten years Since being diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) over 25 years ago, Debra recently made lifestyle changes to improve her health after learning she had stage 4 kidney disease.

Q: What changes did you make to improve your health, lower your blood pressure and avoid dialysis?

A: In March I was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease. For the last year my doctor said that he needed to ‘watch my kidneys,' but never said why. I was always at risk for kidney disease because I had high blood pressure (hypertension) for many years, but I didn't know how serious it was until I was diagnosed. My doctor sent me to a kidney specialist; she told me that I might need to go on dialysis. The only way I could hope to avoid this was to get my diet and exercise under control. She said this would be good for my high blood pressure and possibly my kidneys also. I had to see lots of doctors and that's when I started taking these changes more seriously.

I had known for a long time that I could lose "a couple" of pounds - I weighed about 185 pounds when I was diagnosed with the kidney disease. I had heard green tea was good for losing weight so I tried drinking decaffeinated green tea and water and stopped drinking soda and other sugary drinks. Once I began drinking the green tea, I started to like it. I started making it at home instead of buying it at the store to save some money. In recent months, I have noticed I lost a few pounds from doing just this.

GetHealthyHarlem.org wants to remind you to talk with your doctor or health care provider before beginning a diet plan, such as using green tea, to lose weight.

So, when I decided to see if I could lose more I said to myself that instead of eating so much I would also cut back on the amount I was eating to lose even more weight. Then I started eating more fruits and vegetables and eating less red meat and pork products.

Since March 2010 I have lost 30 pounds by making these gradual, but important changes and am feeling healthier and I'm really excited about it! I have also started walking more and dancing. I like dancing because it gets you moving and makes you sweat. In addition, my doctor recommended a kidney diet that would help me.

Also, at the time of my diagnosis, I was taking a daily multi-vitamin, but my doctor told me to switch because there are some nutrients in it that were not good for my kidneys. I now take a daily vitamin that is kidney-friendly and does not have the nutrients, such as potassium, that are harsh on the kidneys.

Q: Do you have any tips for people who are struggling with managing high blood pressure (hypertension)?

A: See a doctor and begin changing your diet by making small but significant changes. Hypertension can have lasting effects, as my case of being diagnosed with kidney disease shows. If you start by making the changes sooner, there is a better chance you won't develop other complications. I also really enjoy cooking, so I have started experimenting using more herbs and spices instead of adding salt for flavor which has been very helpful for my hypertension. I gradually decreased the amount of salt I added to food so that now I use much less than I did before.

Read more about Debra Jackson by clicking the links below:

To listen to our interview with Debra Jackson, click here.

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