Today diabetes affects 23 million people in the United States, and experts predict that by 2020 the disease will affect more than 50 percent of Americans.
The numbers are even more staggering for the African American population. Nearly 2.8 million are thought to have diabetes and past studies have shown they are 27 percent more likely to die from complications of diabetes in comparison to their white counterparts. If left untreated, diabetes can be a debilitating disease. Complications range from vision loss to loss of circulation to the limbs, which often results in amputation.
Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make enough or can’t use insulin correctly. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use sugar from food for energy or stores it for later use.
When the body can’t properly process insulin, too much sugar stays in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can eventually lead to serious problems by damaging blood vessels and nerves. Damaged blood vessels can lead to heart disease and stroke, and also reduce blood flow to certain parts of the body causing pain and slower healing.
That is why Neighborhood Health Plan is spreading the word about the danger of diabetes and high blood pressure and wants you to know about resources available to reduce your risk.
Through local ads and working with the community to encourage Blacks and African Americans to keep blood pressure under control and make lifestyle changes, we hope to see more people leading long and healthy lives.
Underlying factors can be monitored to help control the disease and can even prevent or delay diabetes-related problems.
It turns out that high blood pressure coupled with diabetes increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and eye and kidney disease. Up to 60 percent of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, and 40 percent of Blacks and African Americans have high blood pressure.
Many of the risk factors for diabetes overlap with those for high blood pressure including a history of diabetes in the family, being overweight, being inactive, and being of African, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander heritage.
Working to reach personal blood pressure targets goes a long way in helping control other issues later. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the National Institutes of Health recommend a target blood pressure of less than 130/80 for people with diabetes. When blood pressure is below these levels, you will be lowering your risk for diabetes problems.
Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise can help control your blood pressure as well as your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Talking with your health care provider is the best way to decide which steps are right for you in better controlling your diabetes and keeping blood pressure in check.
Healthy living really starts with you. Take a moment to check your blood pressure and talk to your health care provider to see what you can do now for a healthy tomorrow.
Dr. Collins is a family practice physician at Family Health Center of Worcester, providing care for more than 12 years, and also serves as a Medical Director for Neighborhood Health Plan.