African Americans and Diabetes

The statistics for African Americans and diabetes are alarming and it is time for African Americans to have a serious conversation about the impact of diabetes on the community. This is not to say that there are not multiple conversations going on around us that focus on African Americans with diabetes. We are being talked about and we are being talked to but I can't help but wonder how many of us are fully engaged in the conversation. It is my opinion that we need to play a much bigger role in driving the discussion about type 1 and type 2 diabetes in our community. A big part of the diabetes story for African Americans is the alarming increasing in obesity in the community. We must be more willing to tell our own stories of our trials and our triumphs so that we can inspire and encourage others in the community.

The Statistics - African Americans and Diabetes

According to the ADA, Africans Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes when compared to the general population.

  • African Americans are 1.8 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites
  • 3.7 million or 14.7% of African Americans age 20 or older have diabetes
  • 25% of African Americans between the age of 65 and 75 have diabetes
  • 1 in 4 African American women over 55 have diabetes

The statistics on diabetes complications are even more alarming for African Americans when compared to the general population

  • Blindness - African American are almost 50% as likely to develop diabetic retinopathy as non-Hispanic whites
  • Kidney Disease - African Americans are 2.6 to 5.6 times as likely to suffer from kidney disease with more than 4,000 new case of END Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) each year.
  • Amputation - African Americans are 2.6 to 5.6 times as likely to suffer from lower -limb amputations. Amputation rates are 1.4 to 2.7 time higher in men than women with diabetes.Diabetes foot care needs to take on a greater importance in the African American community. 

The Challenge - African Americans and Diabetes

Many African Americans have been too complacent about managing their diabetes and not letting it get in the way of their long term health and well being. For many of us diabetes sneaks up on us. For too many of us, the diagnosis of diabetes progresses from prediabetes to borderline diabetes to full-blown diabetes and perhaps brittle diabetes. This does not have to be the natural progression.  There are no outward signs or symptoms and we become lulled into thinking that lifestyle changes are not necessary to maintain good health when just the opposite is true. I suspect that many people are reluctant to give up their way of life - the way they eat, not being dependent on medication, and not having to exercise to control their diabetes. Of course, the sad truth is that if we don't make changes to our lifestyle after a diabetic diagnosis, we will eventually lose the life we have either to diabetes complications like kidney failure or blindness or to death.

More African Americans need to take on diabetes like their life depends on it ---because it does. Defending our life against diabetes requires that we to engage in a fight for our survival. When you are in a fight, you have to be tough, discipline, courageous, and diligent. If you know that you can win the fight, its more likely that you will keep fighting. With diabetes, all of the tools and information are available to allow us to win the fight. However, if we get beaten down in the early stage of the fight, it makes it more difficult, though not impossible to come back. We have to learn how to beat our diabetes before it beats us.

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