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Lifestyle changes can help prevent development of diabetes

11 04 21 Cover

National Diabetes Awareness Month

By Lisa Fitch | Editor-in-Chief

Nearly 15 percent of Black Americans have diabetes compared to 8 percent of White Americans. According to the American Heart Association, in 2018, diabetes caused the deaths of more than 15,000 African-Americans. But this is a condition that can be managed. By living a healthy lifestyle filled with exercise and proper diet, one can live a normal life and do everything they set out to do.

The California Black Health Network (CBHN) kicked off its Health4Life series with a live cooking demonstration Oct. 28. Health4Life is a health and wellness education initiative designed to help Black Californians become more empowered to take charge of their health and wellness.

“This is actually the way we all should be eating,” said Chef Tiffany Derry, who led a step-by-step demonstration on how to make simple and satisfying dishes that keep the “flavor” in meals while also keeping them healthy and nutritious. “What we should be doing is reducing carbs, salt, sugar and fat.”

Recipe cards for the chicken curry and banana nice cream Derry created during the webinar are featured on . Derry is best known as a fan-favorite on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef.” She is also a Novo Nordisk Diabetes Ambassador for healthy cooking demonstrations and educational workshops. Derry found a love of cooking at an early age and later graduated from The Art Institute of Houston, Texas.

“I actually believe that if you eat better, then you feel better,” she said.

Derry explained that everyone should assess every plate that is eaten. For example, half of the dinner plate should feature a non-starchy vegetable, while the remaining half should be divided between the protein and starch segments of a meal. It is also good, she said, to make a journal to note everything one eats each day. Portion size and colorful meals are important when cooking.

“Maybe the size of the palm of your hand can be a portion,” Derry said, “And taste the rainbow —I like that saying,”

She noted that her Dallas, restaurants mostly serve southern cuisine.

“Sometimes people think you need to sacrifice flavor to have something delicious,” Derry said during her demonstration. “I don’t play around with things that don’t taste delicious.”

Derry’s family had a farm, where they used to shell peas and eat greens. She recommends everyone to eat more vegetables and use a few herbs spices to create different flavors

“One key ingredient we haven’t talked about is acid.” Derry said. “Lemon, lime, vinegar—it really picks up a dish. One of the tricks that we do is ladd a little bit of acid. Sometimes it can mimic some salt.”

Additional recipes can be found on

Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes. Although some people with diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed, common symptoms of diabetes include: Urinating often; feeling very thirsty; feeling very hungry—even though you are eating; extreme fatigue; blurry vision; cuts/bruises that are slow to heal; weight loss—even though you are eating more (type 1); tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2).

What is diabetes?

The human body breaks down food carbohydrates into blood sugar (blood glucose) that it uses for energy, and insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.

In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, everyone can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes—and it means that the body doesn’t use insulin properly. And while some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may need medication or insulin to help manage it. Regardless, there are options—and health professionals are available with needed tools, resources and support.

A large body of research suggests that smoking is strongly “associated” with the development of type 2 diabetes. A review of 25 studies found that smokers are 44 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and heavy smokers are 61 percent more likely than non-smokers to develop type 2 diabetes.

Smoking or using any other type of tobacco raises blood sugar, which is thought to result in insulin resistance. Smoking can also cause complications to those who have diabetes. It increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes; blood pressure; cholesterol; damages blood vessels and prevents their proper healing; increases the risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease; increases the risk of kidney disease; increases the risk of cancer; increases the risk of erectile dysfunction; and increases the risk of lung problems.

Diabetes prevention

The National Diabetes Prevention Program—or National DPP—was created in 2010 to address the increasing burden of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in the United States. One key feature of the National DPP is the CDC-recognized lifestyle change program, a research-based program focusing on healthy eating and physical activity which works with people with prediabetes.

Participants receive a full year of support and learn how to eat healthy, add physical activity to their routine, manage stress, stay motivated, and solve problems that can get in the way of their goals. This program is proven to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Participants who lost 5-7 percent of their body weight and added 150 minutes of exercise per week cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent (71 percent for people over 60 years old).

Since 2013, Black Women for Wellness has partnered with the Black Women’s Health Imperative to implement Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life (CYL2). as part of the Center of Disease Control’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, working with employers to offer lifestyle coaching and health education to prevent type 2 diabetes. CDC-recognized lifestyle change programs are an effective—and fun—way to prevent type 2 diabetes.

CYL2 is conducted in a group setting by CDC trained lifestyle coaches. It helps people who are pre-diabetic and who are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes prevent or delay the onset of the disease through healthy eating, increased physical activity and other lifestyle changes. Participants take part in a year-long program starting with 16 weekly sessions, one hour once a week (four months), followed by twice a month follow-up meetings (eight months). To participate a person must be 18 years or older or have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 24. Participants must have a previous diagnosis of pre-diabetes or history of gestational diabetes; or score at least a 9 on the CDC Diabetes Risk Test.

HBCU  alumnus Andrew Suggs is the founder and CEO of Life Chair Health and he is on a mission to save the lives of African-Americans by addressing chronic health conditions through the trusted relationships established between hair professionals and their clients. This seemingly simple idea is growing rapidly into becoming its own movement.

The recent loss of his own father in 2020 made Andrew’s passion for this cause to grow even stronger, and is set on elevating barbers into becoming not only leaders in their community but also lifesavers for those who sit in their chairs. He’s on the path to reach men and women and save lives in the most unexpected of ways.

Frequent visits to hair professionals foster trusting relationships that lead to powerful  community building. Though studies have shown the effectiveness of barbershops to  support health care, this is the first time that a company has taken that model to a large  scale.  In Life Chair Health, haircare professionals can educate their clients on visiting their primary physician, keeping track of their blood pressure and signing up for health insurance.

Providence health system has partnered with Live Chair Health, the American Heart Association, faith communities and education and non-profit organizations throughout Los Angeles to  reduce hypertension in Black communities. Suggs’ Live Chair Health is a digital healthcare company focused on  improving health outcomes in diverse communities. This partnership looks to harness the power of human connection to close the life expectancy gap of Black Americans at barbershops and salons across greater Los Angeles.

As part of its Health Equity Initiative, Providence committed $50 million across the  seven-state health system to address health inequities, spurring a local team to seek  creative solutions to expand access to care. Providence Southern California is committed to continuing to address health disparities in communities of color and other  communities experiencing them (LGBTQIA+, veterans, people experiencing homelessness, disabilities community).

By signing up at , participants can learn to identify ways to improve their health; receive personalized health recommendations; and start taking healthy actions, earning points they can redeem at their hair salon or barbershop. Credits can be used for hair or beauty services. Haircare professionals are encouraged to visit to join in the movement.