In February 1926, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, led by Carter G. Woodson, sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week in conjunction with pre-existing celebrations such as the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12). Woodson sought to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to civilization. The tradition quickly spread across the United States and endured for 50 years until 1976, when the week-long celebration officially became known as Black History Month.
The observance of black history is as important today as it was back then. African Americans are commonly pigeon-holed to sports and entertainment, but they have also shaped other areas, such as health care, science, engineering, education and the military. Unfortunately, these examples are not found in very many of our children’s history textbooks.
The Tuskegee Airmen, an elite group of African-American World War II pilots, recently gained visibility with the movie “Red Tails.” There was also a female Red Tail, but she was not allowed to fly officially. The 2012 Black History Month theme happens to be “Black Women in American Culture and History,” providing further opportunity for us to appreciate the accomplishments of black women in society.
Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, action or both, and it is wreaking havoc in the black community. It affects not only African-American women, but many of our men and children as well. Approximately 26 million people in the United States have diabetes, and it occurs in epidemic proportions in African Americans. Approximately 18.7% of African Americans over age 20 have diabetes and about 35% have prediabetes.
Alarmingly, African Americans with diabetes also have more kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, amputations and blindness than whites. Slowly and silently, diabetes is robbing African Americans of their future and taking away their legacy as a people. In fact, many are not living to see their grandchildren. Black elders are essential to maintaining our communities and culture and we are losing too many too soon to complications and premature deaths from diabetes.
Changing this is in our hands. Diabetes is common and costly, but it is also preventable and controllable—if we take action. This Black History Month, we are calling all African Americans to take back their lives, to fight for their future and to learn how to Stop Diabetes®! Research has proven that type 2 diabetes can be prevented and that early diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes can keep diabetes under control.
Here are some prevention tips:
- Lose 7 to 10% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, lose 20 pounds.
- Increase physical activity to at least 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week.
- Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables—they should cover at least half of your plate.
- Reduce the calories and fat in your diet.
Individuals diagnosed with diabetes must learn to live and thrive with the disease by following the same lifestyle principles. They must also work in partnership with their health care providers to control their disease.
So if you have diabetes:
- Know your A1C score and keep it under 7%.
- Get your blood pressure (BP) checked at all doctor visits and aim for a BP of less than 130/80.
- Keep your total cholesterol under 200 mg/dl, with low-density lipoproteins (LDL, the “lousy” cholesterol) under 100.
- Aim for high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL) of higher than 40 mg/dl for men and 50 mg/dl for women.
- Keep triglyceride levels to less than 150 mg/dl.
- Monitor your blood sugar, get annual dilated eye exams and have your feet checked at all doctors’ visits.
This Black History Month, take the pledge to join the movement to STOP DIABETES!
Share your stories, low-fat recipes and tips for monitoring your blood glucose.
Act by taking charge of your health, being proactive at your doctor’s visits, checking your glucose level every day, asking for support if you need it and teaching others how to prevent the disease.
Learn about diabetes, how to prevent and manage it and how to manage sick days.
Give of yourself to the community and support others with the disease.
African Americans must stop assuming that diabetes is our destiny. While genetics play a part in determining risk, “just because your mother has diabetes” does not mean that you will have it too. We must take better care of our health, remembering that this is our most precious resource. We must work to renew our spirits, bodies, minds and souls and get our families back on track.
We must dare to live—and thrive—with diabetes. After all, we want you and your achievements to be celebrated for many more Black History Months to come.
African-American Initiatives Subcommittee
American Diabetes Association