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Doctors' Notes

Diabetes Awareness: Decreasing Your Risk

Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.com.  We promise to keep it anonymous. 

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What do Sherri Shepherd, Angie Stone, Anthony Anderson, Halle Berry, and Phife Dawg all have in common?  They were all diagnosed with diabetes. While we may know these celebrities living with diabetes by name, it is important to realize that diabetes affects 1 out of every 5 adults in our community. That means all of us personally knows someone living with diabetes, whether we realize it or not.  Whether they realize it or not. November is American Diabetes Month and what better time than this to bring awareness to a disease that many in our community are living with but have no idea they have it.

Dr. Rob says:

Diabetes is generally broken down into two forms, Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes is characterized by a loss of the body’s ability to produce its own insulin to regulate the blood sugar.  As a result, insulin must be administered daily to keep blood sugars from rising to dangerously high levels. In type 2 diabetes, some insulin is still being produced in the body, but there is either not enough being produced, or the body is unable to effectively use that insulin to keep the blood sugars in normal range.  This form of diabetes is much more common, and can be treated in a variety of ways from diet and lifestyle changes to oral medication, to injections aimed at keeping the blood sugars from rising.

The danger with both forms of diabetes exists when the body’s blood sugars remain at high levels and can occur when the disease goes undiagnosed, untreated, or poorly controlled.  This can lead to devastating complications such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, kidney disease, blindness and amputations. Diabetes will often times develop gradually with very little symptoms. When present, symptoms of diabetes may include fatigue, increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and blurry vision.  These symptoms are often vague, and as a result may go unchecked for many months or years.

Men can also experience erectile dysfunction as a symptom of uncontrolled blood sugars.  As in other parts of the body, nerve and blood vessel damage from untreated diabetes can also make sexual performance difficult.  This will often prompt men to make a visit to the doctor, only to find that undiagnosed diabetes is as the root of the issue.

Dr. Karla says:

Unfortunately as Blacks we are two times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than other groups.  As women, we are then at an even greater risk of death from diabetes related complications.  That’s why screening, early diagnosis, and treatment are so important.

There are a number of risk factors associated with developing diabetes.  Those with a family history of diabetes are at increased risk, as well as those struggling with obesity, lack of exercise, cigarettes, alcohol use, lack of sleep, and consuming diets high in fat and processed foods. As a result, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes are a mainstay in not only the treatment for this disease but also in prevention.

Diabetes is highly treatable and in many cases reversible once it is diagnosed.  I’m living proof.  After being diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager, and living with it for almost 20 years, I am blessed to say I am now free from all medication and insulin injections! After much prayer and hard work and dedication, my diet, lifestyle, and exercise routine allow me to live a life free from diabetes and its complications.  If I can do it….anybody can do it!

In addition to the 26 million people in this country living with diabetes, is estimated that an additional 1 in 3 are “prediabetic” or at great risk of developing the disease. Here are a few quick tips for us all to raise our diabetes awareness this month:

Get screened.  If you have any of the risk factors of developing diabetes, visit your doctor.  Knowing is half the battle.  You can’t treat what you don’t know you have.  If you don’t have it, there are steps you can take NOW to make sure you DON’T develop it.

Upgrade your diet.  Start reducing the amount of fats, processed foods, and sugars in your diet.  These have all been linked to developing diabetes and other health issues.  Choose lean meats, and low fat items instead.

Keep the weight down.  Obesity is a huge risk factor for developing many chronic diseases, including diabetes.  Studies show that a small amount of weight loss- even just 5 percent of total body weight (that’s 10lbs in a 200lb person) can prevent the onset of diabetes.

Move your body.  Incorporating 30-45 minutes a day of exercise can prevent the development of diabetes and help keep the blood sugars under control in those previously diagnosed.  It’s worth it.

 It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazineand host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at www.urbanhousecallmagazine.com, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on twitter @urbanhousecall!