Posted Dec. 3, 2007 – ATTENTION: stop the killer! Get moving, get motivated, and get empowered. As Miss Black U.S.A. 2007, I have the opportunity to promote awareness and education on an issue that is close to my heart.
At age 14, I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. This disease, also known as “sugar” in the Black community, is ranked the sixth deadliest diseases in the United States by the American Diabetes Association (2005). Diabetes is also more expensive in direct health care costs in the United States than any other diseases.
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Diabetes is caused by either lack of insulin production or decreased sensitivity to insulin produced. Insulin is a hormone that allows the body’s cells to absorb the nutrients from the food we eat for energy. In diabetes, insulin is either not effectively used or is not produced at all by the body. This condition can cause the body literally to starve to death, regardless of the amount of food one consumes.
As African-Americans, we are at higher risk for suffering from this chronic illness. Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are also more susceptible. Today, a projected 6.2 million undiagnosed people suffer from this disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005). We, as Americans, should aim to significantly decrease this number and, thus, decrease the deadliness of diabetes.
Diabetes has a barrage of symptoms that should trigger suspicion in those who could possibly be affected. The American Diabetes Association has provided a Diabetes Risk Test on its site www.diabetes.org/risk-test.jsp that can help identify whether or not you are at higher risk.
Common symptoms include fatigue, frequent urination, weight loss, extreme hunger and/or thirst, irritability, and unexplained changes in vision. Experiencing a combination of any of these symptoms could be cause for major concern. Immediately contact a physician if you consistently experience any of thesm.
The American Diabetes Association recommends a simple Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test to detect the presence of diabetes. In this test, the blood is tested for the amount of glucose present after a period of fasting. It is a relatively cheap test, and usually definitive results can be expected within 24 hours. Most primary care physicians can offer this screening test. In addition, independent labs also provide the FPG test at an average cost of about $45.
Now is the time to increase awareness of diabetes in our communities and throughout the world. Why suffer the ravaging effects of diabetes when it can be easily managed with proper management and by living a healthy lifestyle? A healthy diet and regular exercise is a good start. Through education, knowledge and smart choices, we can combat this disease which disproportionately affects people of color. Today, all the advances in diabetes management make living with diabetes easier than ever.
I believe a cure will one day become available to the people suffering from diabetes worldwide. Massive efforts in research are being undertaken everyday to learn more in the fight to loosen the grasp that this disease has on our people. Until then, we must do our part to keep this disease at bay.
Although prevention is best, it is not always possible. Still being diagnosed with diabetes is not a death sentence. With the proper management, people with the disease live long, healthy, fruitful lives. Most health insurance plans generally cover diabetes supplies. Unfortunately, the reality is that many, many people are either uninsured or underinsured. Therefore, other methods of obtaining supplies have also been established. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) makes more than 475 assistance programs available for little to no cost. For more information on how you can qualify for these assistance programs, call 1-888-4PPA-NOW or visit their Web site at https://www.pparx.org.
Call 1-866-3-LOSE-IT for your “Healthy BET” healthy living brochure and “get into the know” on diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other health concerns affecting the African-American community!