Watch: Why does sickle cell affect Black people at a higher rate?

Tevin and Akilah Coleman and Dr. Kim Smith-Whitley are helping to bring awareness to sickle cell anemia, which affects Black people's everyday lives.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. More than 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell anemia, but 1 out of 15 Black people carry the sickle cell trait. Sickle cell is an inherited lifelong blood condition affecting the shape of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

Dr. Kim Smith-Whitley, global chief medical affairs officer for patient advocacy and external collaboration for Pfizer, and Tevin Coleman and Akilah Coleman, whose daughter has the sickle cell, stopped by theGrio Weekly to raise awareness about the illness.

Both Coleman parents carry the sickle cell trait, but out of their twin children, only their daughter has the disease. While Akilah Coleman didn’t show any symptoms of carrying the trait, Tevin Coleman experienced compilations while playing football in college. He says he experienced passing out, his body cramping and locking up, and was unable to finish practices.

Smith-Whitley says this disease is so prevalent in the Black community because the gene is a protective mechanism where you have malaria that is regularly occurring. If you come from descendants who grew up where malaria is prevalent, having the sickle cell trait protects you from severe complications of malaria.

While doctors are still trying to find a cure for this disease, studies have shown that adopting a healthy lifestyle, including your mental and physical health, has helped people manage their pain and live normal everyday lives.

Watch the full clips above and tune into “theGrio Weekly” with Natasha S. Alford at 11 am ET every Sunday on theGrio cable channel.

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