Diabetes in African Caribbean Communities


Diabetes is an illness that, with the help of modern medicine, is no longer as detrimental as it used to be. Although it's a lot easier to handle nowadays, it is not a walk in the park. The condition still shortens lifespans and increases the likelihood of other diseases. While some cases of diabetes are nearly unpreventable, majority (~90%) of the cases can be avoided - which is good news because with the right education and resources, the prevalence of the illness can be reduced!

Insulin is a hormone secreted from the pancreas that breaks down glucose into energy or usable forms of stored energy for later use. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood/adolescence and is mainly caused by autoimmune illness that destroys the body's function to produce insulin, so it requires insulin as a form of treatment; and type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adulthood (although people are being diagnosed younger lately), it is mainly caused by one's lifestyle and genetic makeup, healthier eating and dieting choices are generally effective in treating this.

50% of the black population in Britain are estimated to develop type 2 diabetes by the age of 80, as opposed to 20% of our whiter counterparts, and due to the not-so-great relationships with authorities and healthcare services, this can go undiagnosed for long periods of time - which increases the chance of complications. It is recommended that black people start getting screened from age 25 instead of the usual age of 40.

Diet, lifestyle and some genetic components of the metabolism are large contributing factors to the development of type 2 diabetes in our communities, so high BMIs, waist sizes and insulin resistance are common indicative factors. Improving your diet and exercising more can MASSIVELY reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes - this doesn't necessarily mean adopting a vigorous athletic regime, but easing yourself into at least 30 minutes a day of any physical activity that raises your heartbeat significantly can REVERSE the build up of some diabetic symptoms. Reducing sugar, fat and salt intake and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption - even by a little bit - can cause instant positive improvements to your health.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness and other eye complications, it can also directly lead to nerve problems (which can cause many issues including weakness in certain areas, digestive problems and even amputations), kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetic ketoacidosis (acidic poisoning of the body) and feet problems. Indirectly, diabetes can increase the likelihood of many other illnesses.

Although diabetes is preventable in most cases, it is becoming more and more common. With early interventions such as regular screenings and healthier lifestyle choices, it's prevalence can be reduced. Having open conversations with others and actively educating people can also make a huge impact. Diabetes does not have to be a normalised part of the black experience and those with the condition can still live with minimal effects from it.

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