I was a first-round draft pick in 2008, but now I’ve been drafted into a different role: an Ambassador for the American Diabetes Association. It’s an honor to be a part of this organization, as I understand first-hand how serious diabetes is and why raising awareness is key to helping Stop Diabetes®.
Though I myself don’t have diabetes, the disease is very close to my heart because it has affected my family for a long time. My mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when I was six years old. As a consequence of her diabetes, she has had a number of health issues, most importantly kidney failure. She is now fighting to regain her health. My grandmother was also diagnosed with type 2 about eight years ago, and both of them have had strokes within the last three years.
As a child, I remember my mom having to take insulin all the time. Her diabetes became worse as I got older. She would improve her diet, then start to fall off of it. I really got on to her about a year ago—and she’s now lost at least 20 pounds. It’s been very difficult and painful for me to see her struggle with diabetes, and as her son I feel it’s my obligation to help her keep it under control.
I don’t want to see others go through what my mom went through, or deal with diabetes in their later years like my grandmother is doing. So, this is my time to raise awareness about this epidemic, especially for the African American community. You see, diabetes is one of the most serious health problems that the African American community faces today—we are almost two times more likely to have diabetes than others.
So this Black History Month, I’m here to encourage everyone, especially the African American community, to stay disciplined and stay active. You know the drill: lose weight if you need to (just 7 percent of your body weight can help!), watch what you eat and exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Take care of yourself! Learn more about the Association’s program and materials to increase awareness of the seriousness of diabetes and its complications among African Americans.
I thought I’d be prone to type 2 diabetes myself, considering the number of people in my family who have been diagnosed. But I changed my eating habits a long time ago, because I know it can be prevented, or at least delayed. Early in my career, I told myself, “You need to be big.” But now at 305 pounds, I’m probably the leanest I’ve been in my career. I’m also faster and stronger. I feel good.
Get informed and educated about diabetes so you can live a healthy life, then take it one step further. I ask you to also help me and the Association advocate for those who live with diabetes every day. Become a Diabetes Advocate to increase awareness of the seriousness of diabetes and its complications among our community. We also need to raise our voice about increasing vital research funding that will improve the lives of people with diabetes and ultimately lead to a cure.
We can no longer be ignorant of diabetes. It’s our job to advocate for those who need our help. Don’t let diabetes rob our community of our lives ahead of us.
Professional football player and American Diabetes Association Ambassador