Dr. Branden Turner (Courtesy photo)

Diabetes is a serious disease that affects millions of people in America. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 40% of U.S. adults are likely to develop type 2 diabetes over their lifetime.

When it comes to the impact on the Black community, diabetes is having an exceptional toll! Consider the following alarming statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health:

  • In 2019, non-Hispanic Black people were twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes.
  • In 2018, African American adults were 60% more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician.
  • In 2019, non-Hispanic Black people were 2.5 times likely to be hospitalized with diabetes and associated long-term complications than non-Hispanic whites.

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Additionally, the CDC adds Black people are more likely to suffer complications from diabetes, including end-stage kidney disease and lower extremity amputations.

“We, as a community, have so much control over diabetes,” said Dr. Branden Turner, a family practice physician with Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw. “It just takes the right motivation and tools to avoid it. If you have diabetes, learn how to manage it. If you don’t have diabetes, find out if you’re at risk. Most importantly, adopt a healthy lifestyle with a healthful diet and regular exercise. That way, you’ll lower your risk dramatically from becoming a diabetic, which is irreversible and carries immense health risks!”
What is diabetes?
Almost everything we eat is turned into glucose (sugar), which our body uses for energy. To help our body’s cells absorb glucose, an organ near the stomach – the pancreas – produces a hormone called insulin. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, or can’t use its own insulin very well. As a result, a build-up of glucose occurs in your blood, eventually leading to many health problems and complications.

Cultural factors along with poor diet and lack of exercise are the main culprits resulting in the high incidence of diabetes among the Black community. (Courtesy photo)

There are many differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. But in both types, blood sugar levels get too high. This increases the risk for complications, such as blindness and kidney failure. For both diseases, treatment focuses on keeping blood sugar levels within a target range to help prevent long-term complications.
Dr. Turner noted cultural factors along with poor diet and lack of exercise are the main culprits resulting in the high incidence of diabetes among the Black community. Hence, he noted health care providers need to deliver culturally competent care with options that will better resonate with the Black community and help educate them about the importance of adopting a healthier lifestyle.

For example, Dr. Turner said he encourages his African American patients to make simple dietary changes such as cooking collard greens with a smoked turkey leg instead of a ham hock for a healthier meal with less fat that’s still flavorful. He also urges his patients to avoid fried food, noting sauteed food is much better for you.

“The key is to give people options,” Dr. Turner said. That includes providing them with information about where nearby parks, swimming pools and simple exercise programs are available in their communities to encourage exercise that will help lower the risk of becoming a diabetic.

Brandon Landry, a Crenshaw District resident who has type 2 diabetes, and is under the care of Dr. Turner, urged others to never take their health for granted, and live a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet and exercise to prevent the onset of diabetes.

Personally, Landry said he’s living a normal life now that he’s removed sugar from his diet, and is eating healthier food with no processed foods and a low amount of carbohydrates, all of which has helped him maintain a healthier weight and lower blood sugar level.

“Do the right thing and change your lifestyle to prevent diabetes before it’s too late,” he said.

Tips to help patients better manage their blood sugar: 

  • Have regular eating patterns. Eating the same number of meals around the same time each day helps control blood sugar.
  • Eat many different foods. Eating from all food groups is an effective way to stay healthy.
  • Limit fats. Eat foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, as well as cholesterol.
  • Make room for fiber. High-fiber foods keep people fuller for longer. Whole-grain breads, vegetables, dried beans and fruits are all great sources of fiber.
  • Watch your refined carbohydrates, including sugar. Starches and sugars raise blood sugar levels. Limiting these foods prevents blood sugar from going up.
  • Exercise helps control blood sugar levels. It’s a good idea to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Walking, swimming and cycling are all great options.
  • Exercise also helps you keep a healthy weight. This is important because excess weight makes the kidneys work harder and it also makes it hard to manage blood sugar.
    Kaiser Permanente offers important information about diabetes.