November is National Diabetes Month. This is an opportunity for local and regional advocates to team up and work with partners across the nation to raise awareness of the illness.

This year’s focus is on prediabetes and preventing diabetes.

In Houston, more than half of the residents who died of COVID-19 had diabetes, according to the Houston Health Department. Data also indicates that 13.5% of Houstonians have diabetes, slightly higher than the national rate of 10%

Here are the stats:

  • As of November 1st 2021 (out of the 3,646 COVID-19 deaths) 51.9% had diabetes and 23% were obese
  • Hypertension was the most common comorbidity at 56.3% followed by heart disease at 40.1% and Kidney disease at 25.8%

“Data clearly show that people with underlying health conditions, including diabetes, are more vulnerable to severe outcomes if they get COVID-19,” said Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department. “That’s why our access and equity response strategy targets vital testing, vaccination, and education resources in areas of the city with increased prevalence of underlying health conditions.”   

The department is focused to help people better manage their health through it free diabetes education center called the Diabetes Awareness and Wellness Network (DAWN). The classes include fitness, nutrition, chronic disease self-management, and prediabetes prevention. This also includes nurses, registered dieticians, fitness trainers, and public health educators to name a few. 

“As we focus on diabetes awareness and prevention this month, resources like the DAWN Center are critical to the community,” said Dr. Faith Foreman-Hays, chronic disease director at the health department. “The center provides free behavioral support that aligns with what doctors recommend for preventing or managing diabetes to help improve quality of life.”

Diabetes doesn’t have to sound like a death sentence. With gradual healthy lifestyle changes it is possible to reverse prediabetes. 

Here are some tips provided by the National Institute of Health:

  • Take small steps. Making changes to your lifestyle and daily habits can be hard, but you don’t have to change everything at once. It is okay to start small. 
  • Move more. Limit time spent sitting and try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days a week. Start slowly by breaking it up throughout the day.
  • Choose healthier foods and drinks most of the time. Pick foods that are high in fiber and low in fat and sugar. Build a plate that includes a balance of vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. Drink water instead of sweetened drinks.
  • Lose weight, track it, and keep it off. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of your starting weight.
  • Seek support. It is possible to reverse prediabetes. Making a plan, tracking your progress, and getting support from your health care professional and loved ones can help you make the necessary lifestyle changes.
  • Stay up to date on vaccinations. The COVID-19 (booster shot, if eligible) and flu vaccines are especially important for people who may be more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 or the flu, such as people with diabetes.

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...