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Diabetes heavily impacts African-American community


Important steps to help control disease

Diabetes is a serious disease that affects millions of people in America. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 40% of U.S. adults are likely to develop type 2 diabetes over their lifetime.

When it comes to the impact on the Black community, diabetes is having an exceptional toll. Consider the following statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health:

•  In 2019, non-Hispanic Black people were twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes.

•  In 2018, African-American adults were 60% more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician.

•  In 2019, non-Hispanic Blacks were 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with diabetes and associated long-term complications than non-Hispanic Whites.

Additionally, the CDC adds Blacks are more likely to suffer complications from diabetes, including end-stage kidney disease and lower extremity amputations.

“We, as a community, have so much control over diabetes,” said Dr. Branden Turner, a family practice physician with Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw. “It just takes the right motivation and tools to avoid it. If you have diabetes, learn how to manage it. If you don’t have diabetes, find out if you’re at risk. Most importantly, adopt a healthy lifestyle with a healthful diet and regular exercise. That way, you will lower your risk dramatically from becoming a diabetic, which is irreversible and carries immense health risks!”

Almost everything we eat is turned into glucose (sugar), which our body uses for energy. To help our body’s cells absorb glucose, an organ near the stomach – the pancreas – produces a hormone called insulin. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, or can’t use its own insulin very well. As a result, a build-up of glucose occurs in your blood, eventually leading to many health problems and complications.

Dr. Turner noted cultural factors along with poor diet and lack of exercise are the main culprits resulting in the high incidence of diabetes. Hence, he noted health care providers need to deliver culturally competent care with options that will better resonate with the Black community and help educate them about the importance of adopting a healthier lifestyle.

For example, Dr. Turner said he encourages his African-American patients to make simple dietary changes such as cooking collard greens with a smoked turkey leg instead of a ham hock for a healthier meal with less fat that’s still flavorful. He also urges his patients to avoid fried food, noting sauteed food is much better for you.

“The key is to give people options,” Dr. Turner said. That includes providing them with information about where nearby parks, swimming pools and simple exercise programs are available in their communities to encourage exercise that will help lower the risk of becoming a diabetic.

If you or your child experience any or all the following symptoms, especially if you have a family history of diabetes, contact a physician to find out if you or your child have diabetes:

•  Excessive thirst

•  Extreme hunger

•  Frequent urination

•  Unexplained weight loss

•  Extreme fatigue

•  Irritability

•  Blurry vision

Although diabetes is a lifelong condition, you can live a healthy life. Whether you were recently diagnosed, or have been living with it for some time, the following steps can help you keep diabetes under control:

•  Test your blood sugar to be sure it’s in the target range set by you and your doctor.

•  Keep your blood sugar (glucose) level under control.

•  Take blood sugar medication as prescribed by your doctor.

•  Stay or become more physically active. Try walking for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.

•  If you’re overweight, losing as little as 7 to 15 pounds can make a big difference in your health.