Battling Diabetes in the Black Community

How Black America can fight back

DIABETES Lilly cogic

Not all diseases affect society equally.

It sounds harsh, but it’s the reality. And for the black community, it’s time to face this reality sooner rather than later, especially when it comes to diabetes.

According to extensive research in recent years, namely by the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is affecting the black community at a disproportionate and disturbing rate.

Here are a few figures:

  • 13.2 percent of the black population – aged 20 or older – suffers from diabetes in America
  • Black people are nearly twice as likely to suffer from diabetes than white people
  • Due to diabetes, black people are 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation than other ethnicity
  • The prevalence of diabetes in black people has quadrupled over the past three decades
  • Black people are 5.6 times more likely to suffer from kidney disease as a result of diabetes than other ethnicities
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and the death rate for black people with diabetes is about 27 percent higher than for white people

Diabetes is one of the deadliest diseases that strikes the black community, and it needs to be combatted.

But let’s start with the basics…

What is Diabetes?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is described as the following:

Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood. This is why many people refer to diabetes as “sugar.” Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Healthline.com describes the difference between the two in simple terms:

Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar, or glucose. Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, but to enter your cells it needs a key. Insulin is that key. People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. You can think of it as not having a key. People with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should and later in the disease often don’t make enough insulin. You can think of this as having a broken key.

Type 1 diabetes is generally a result of family history and is most common among children and adolescents. Type 2 diabetes is generally a result of obesity, immediate family history and physical inactivity, and occurs in those over 45 for the most part.

Type 2 diabetes affects the minority community greater than type 1. While both are serious conditions, type 2 is more deadly to the black people simply because it affects the black community at a higher rate.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are the following:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow healing sores
  • Areas of darkened skin

Why does diabetes affect black people more than others and what can we do?

It’s a valid question with not a very valid answer.

On its website, when outlining the risk factors for diabetes, the Mayo Clinic says, “Although it’s unclear why, people of certain races — including blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans — are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than whites are.”

However, what is clear are there are several diabetes risk factors that are in our control, giving us the power to combat the disease.

Here are three ways in which you can combat type 2 diabetes:

  1. Watch your weight — Obesity and being overweight is one of the top risks for developing type 2 diabetes. According to Mayo Clinic, “The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.” Studies also show that excessive fat in the abdomen — better known as belly — creates a greater risk for type 2 diabetes.
  2. Exercise and eat right — Inactivity puts us in much greater position to develop type 2 diabetes. Activity is not only a means to control weight gain, but it causes our bodies to use glucose as energy, making our cells more sensitive to insulin. Working out — which includes simple activities like going on a bike ride, taking a walk or swimming — for just 30 minutes a day can go a long way in fighting diabetes. Lastly, maintaining a healthy diet is also vital to combating diabetes.
  3. Know your history — According to studies, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is much greater if your parent or sibling has the disease. It’s important to know your family history regarding diabetes. Also, don’t BECOME history. As we get older, the chances of developing diabetes increases, especially when we eclipse age 45.

Diabetes is a serious health concern affecting our community, but it is not a death sentence. Visit your doctor and talk to them about the risks of diabetes, especially as you approach age 45 and beyond. Pay attention to your health and don’t be afraid to find out answers about your body.

Together, we can reverse this trend of diabetes debilitating the black community!