African American and Diabetes | What Should You Know | Body and Soul

African American and Diabetes | What Should You Know | Body and Soul

Published June 14, 2010

You can get diabetes if your body does not use insulin right. Insulin changes the sugars in food into energy. Type 1 diabetes happens when your body destroys its own cells that make insulin. Type 2 diabetes happens when your body doesn't make enough insulin. Diabetes affects women of all ages. African Americans are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites of the same age.

People with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their skin, mouth, kidneys, heart, nerves, eyes, and feet. African Americans have higher rates of at least two of diabetes' most serious complications: amputation (such as having a toe or foot removed), and kidney failure. Although type 1 diabetes can't be prevented, there are steps you can take to prevent and control type 2 diabetes:

• See your doctor regularly. Don't forget about the dentist and eye doctor!
• If you smoke, try to quit. Quitting is hard, but there are programs that can help.
 Control your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, your blood pressure, and your weight.
• Get moving. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, most days of the week. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, walk during breaks at work.
• Check your feet every day for blisters, red spots, swelling, or cuts.
• Stay aware of how you feel. If you notice a problem, call your doctor right away.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. This type of diabetes affects about 1 in 20 pregnancies. During pregnancy your body makes hormones that keep insulin from doing its job. To make up for this, your body makes extra insulin. In some women this extra insulin is not enough, so they get gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away when the pregnancy is over. Still, women who have had gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.


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