From the contentious election to natural disasters to the onslaught of violence experienced in our community, most of us are grateful just to have made it through 2016. It seemed we not only needed to say but actually shout: Black Lives Matter. Interestingly enough, though, one of the biggest threats to the livelihood of our people went largely unnoticed, save for a spate of celebrity deaths.
This is the menace known as diabetes.
Several beloved entertainers and public figures fell victim to this disease and its complications, including longtime radio jock Doug Banks, gospel icon Pastor Daryl Coley, hip-hop pioneer Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest and Prince Be of the R&B group P.M. Dawn. Former Yo! MTV Raps star Dr. Dre revealed that he is now blind as a result of diabetes. And those were just the cases that made the news; many of us know important people in our own lives who have also been affected by this scourge.
Diabetes is generally broken down into two forms: the less common type 1 and the more predominant form, type 2. In both cases, it results from either too little insulin being produced or the inability to properly use the insulin that is circulating through the body. The danger with both forms exists when they go undiagnosed, untreated or are poorly controlled and the body’s blood sugars remain at high levels. This can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, chronic infections, kidney disease, blindness, amputations and death.
Part of the threat is that the condition will oftentimes develop gradually with few symptoms. The more noticeable signs include fatigue, increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and blurry vision. Because these markers are often vague and seemingly unrelated, they may go unchecked for many months or years. Nerve and blood vessel damage from untreated diabetes can also impede sexual performance. Men may experience erectile dysfunction as a symptom of uncontrolled blood sugars; this will often prompt them to visit the doctor, only to find that diabetes is the root of the issue.
The good news is that most cases of diabetes are not only preventable but treatable. Yet the devastation in our community continues. We simply aren’t going to the doctor enough. There are certainly a select few who are proactive and visit their doctors regularly. These people will likely be the ones to catch the onset of chronic disease before complications develop. However, the overwhelming majority of us wait until symptoms are long-standing, uncomfortable or inconvenient. The problem is that this occurs once chronic disease is advanced and complications are numerous.
Controlling the effects of diabetes includes prevention, early detection and management. Preventing the disease means decreasing the risk factors such as obesity, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, and diets high in fat and processed foods. Early detection involves taking the initiative to go to the doctor. It also means encouraging one another to go to a physician. If detected early and treated, complications can oftentimes be avoided. Managing diabetes with diet, exercise, a healthy lifestyle and medications when needed is the secret to living a long and productive life. Let’s start 2017 strong and determined to show that Black Health Matters.
About the doctors: Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Health Media Group, a multimedia health and wellness resource, and also hosts of The Urban Housecall Radio Show. For more from the doctors, visit their website, urbanhousecall.com, and follow them on Twitter: @urbanhousecall.
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Senior Producer, EBONY.com