BY DONYALE HARRIS, M.D., Kelsey-Seybold Clinic

Did you know that, according to the American Diabetes Association, the rate of diagnosed diabetes among African-Americans is 12.7 percent compared to 7.4 percent of whites? African-Americans have a 77 percent higher risk of developing diabetes compared to Caucasian Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And yet, diabetes doesn’t have to be your destiny. There are ways to reduce your risk.

A chronic condition

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar (glucose), an important source of fuel for your body. With Type 2 diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin – a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells – or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level.

Type 2 diabetes has become so prevalent that 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases are Type 2, according to the CDC. Not only are African-Americans at high risk for diabetes, but also data suggests that African-Americans tend to experience more complications, making the disease that much more devastating. Signs and symptoms of Type 2 diabetes often develop slowly. It’s even possible to have Type 2 diabetes and not know it.

Untreated, diabetic patients are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke and have a higher risk for developing kidney disease, high blood pressure, eye troubles, and nerve damage. African-Americans with diabetes often fare worse, developing blindness or needing amputations.

Researchers don’t fully understand why some people develop Type 2 diabetes and others don’t, although certain factors increase the risk, including:

  • Being overweight.
  • Storing fat primarily in the abdomen.
  • Family history.
  • Race.
  • Advancing age.
  • Prediabetes.

4 ways to lower your risk

The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices can help you lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes:

  1. Get screened.During your annual doctor’s visit, ask to be screened for prediabetes and diabetes.
  2. Break with unhealthy traditions.Instead of frying food, bake, broil, and grill fish and lean meats. Use peanut, olive, or canola oil instead of shortening, and cut back on your salt and sugar intake.
  3. Get moving.You can help prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight. Increase your chances of weight loss by following a low-fat diet and exercising for 150 minutes a week.
  4. Seek preventive care.Regular checkups with your primary care physician can help reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Donyale Harris is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center. She’s nationally recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) for excellence in diabetes care.

To schedule an appointment, call 713-442-0000.