Geoffrey (who wants to conceal his last name) was thirsty. He ordered a glass of iced tea and gulped it down in seconds. So he ordered another glass. After a third, he finally asked the waitress for an entire pitcher — and downed that quickly as well.
Knowing something was drastically wrong, he visited his doctor and learned he had Type 2 Diabetes. Besides the thirst, there had been other symptoms that Geoffrey had dismissed. Had he addressed them, he just might have avoided developing the deadly disease that affects more than three million African Americans.
African Americans are more likely to suffer from Type 2 Diabetes and its complications.
With Type 2 Diabetes, Geoffrey’s body cannot produce enough insulin or the body’s cells simply ignore the insulin his body is providing. Since insulin is a protein hormone the body needs to efficiently use sugar, the fuel produced by sugar can’t get to the cells that need it. Over time, the cells become starved of energy. Left unchecked, diabetes causes damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart.
Don’t confuse Type 2 Diabetes with Type 1 (insulin dependent) Diabetes. Type 2 diabetics usually can control their blood glucose levels with exercise, strict diet control, and oral medication.
“While diabetes occurs in people of all ages and races, African Americans are at higher risk for Diabetes Type 2 and its complications of heart disease, blindness, amputation, and kidney failure,” says Maudene Nelson of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
According to the ADA, African Americans are 1.6 times more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. A whopping 25 percent of African Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes. One in four African American women over the age of 55 has the disease.
More startling facts: African Americans are twice as likely as other ethnic groups to suffer from diabetes-related blindness. Among people with diabetes, African Americans are nearly two and one-half times more likely to suffer from lower limb amputations and five times more likely to suffer from kidney disease.
The problem is that the warning signs are not always easy to spot. In fact, with Type 2 Diabetes, the blood sugar level rises so slowly that noticeable symptoms are hard to detect in its early stages. It is important to pay attention to your body, says Nelson. If you notice any the following symptoms, visit your doctor immediately and get a full medical checkup. Early detection can help prevent the disease from getting worse and curb the possibility of developing the devastating complications of diabetes.
The most common symptoms are:
· Increased thirst
· Frequent urination
· Increased hunger
· Unusual weight loss
Additional symptoms that can occur include:
· Burning pain
· Swelling in the feet or hands
· Feelings of dizziness or weakness when sitting or standing suddenly
· Blurred or distorted vision
· Seeing flashes of light or large, floating red or black spots, or large areas that look like floating hairs, cotton fibers or spiderwebs
Type 2 Diabetes is a serious disease for all African Americans. But it can often be prevented by spotting the warning signs early, making proper nutrition a cornerstone of your lifestyle, and increasing your activity level. Add a regular medical checkup to your list, and you can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes by nearly 60 percent.
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