Aside from police officers and other black people killing blacks, the number one killer in the black community is Type 2 Diabetes. There are roughly 45.7 million African-Americans in America, and 13.2% have been diagnosed with the disease.
Whаt іѕ Type 2 Dіаbеtеѕ?
Dіаbеtеѕ, соmmоnlу knоw аѕ “sugar dіаbеtеѕ”, is a соndіtіоn thаt оссurѕ whеn the bоdу is unable tо рrореrlу рrоduсе оr use іnѕulіn. Inѕulіn іѕ nееdеd tо рrосеѕѕ ѕugаr, ѕtаrсhеѕ аnd оthеr fооdѕ into еnеrgу.
Dіаbеtісѕ оftеn suffer from lоw gluсоѕе lеvеlѕ (ѕugаr) іn thеіr blооd. Initially, the pancreas will attempt to supplement the insulin needed for the body, but over time it becomes unable to keep up with the amount necessary to keep the blood glucose at normal levels.
Low blооd ѕugаr levels can cause you to become dіѕоrіеntаtеd, dіzzу, ѕwеаtу, hungrу, have hеаdасhеѕ, hаvе ѕuddеn mооd ѕwіngѕ, hаvе difficulty paying аttеntіоn, оr hаvе tіnglіng ѕеnѕаtіоnѕ аrоund the mоuth.
Both gеnеtісѕ аnd environmental fасtоrѕ рlау roles іn who wіll develop the dіѕеаѕе.
Why is Diabetes So Prevalent in the Black Community?
Lifestyle and eating habits directly contribute to the cause of Type 2 Diabetes. It is a known fact that America, as a whole, has the worst obesity issue in the world. This means that as diverse as this country is: white, black, Asian, Indian, etc., obesity impacts all racial communities. However, Type 2 Diabetes is a direct result of morbid obesity and is impacting black people more than everyone else.
Black Americans are 1.5 times likely to be obese than white Americans. Furthermore, more than 75% of blacks are either obese or suffer from morbid obesity, impacting 80% of black women and 69% of black men. And not to mention, over 20% of black children are obese compared to 14.3% of white children.
Why is this the case?
Well, the contemporary eating habits of black Americans has historical roots in slavery. Before the slave era, blacks maintained healthy, full balanced meals, consisting of mostly vegetables and grains. Fruits and vegetables were the primary sources of food for Africans. However, once captured and enslaved, blacks were fed any and everything just to keep them from starving to death and to be able to perform their roles. Proper nutrition for the slaves was the least concern of slave masters.
Most slaves would eat whatever scraps that they could get their hands on, and unfortunately most of the foods were completely unhealthy. For instance, the usual diet for slaves was cornbread and pork. Pigs and cows were the principal meats of slaves’ diet. Also, remnants of wild species such as opossum, raccoon, snapping turtle, deer, squirrel, duck, and rabbit were consumed. And if the “foods” above weren’t available, most slaves would settle for whatever their livestock ate: corn, slop, and scraps.
Fast-forward to the abolition of slavery through the current date, wealth inequality has played a significant role in black people suffering from Type 2 Diabetes more than any other race of people. For example, there exists an economic injustice to blacks—mostly because of 400 years of head start and advantage for whites—resulting in a vast disproportion in household income, unemployment, and education.
The wealth inequality has hindered blacks from having efficient access to healthy food sources and choices. What this means is that with fruits and vegetables being more expensive than processed foods, low income families will opt for the cheaper option. Unfortunately, by historically having limited access to healthy foods and fresh produce, the selection of processed foods or unhealthy food choices became a cultural norm for black society.
For this reason, there are many black people who receive government assistance such as SNAP benefits, could afford better food options, but instead opt for processed foods. And the constant exposure to poor food choices through marketing doesn’t provide black people with any healthier alternatives.
By turning on the television, you can’t escape the slew of commercials enticing one to order a cheesy, buttery and garlic crust pizza, or if you’re short on cash, there are tons of commercials encouraging people to take advantage of the many items on McDonald’s dollar menu. Marketers know that fat, sugar, and carbs simply sale, and unfortunately, are killing many people in the black community.
In addition to poor cultural eating habits and the marketing of unhealthy foods, black people tend to have poor sources to purchase foods from.
I remember when I was a young girl, I would go to the supermarket with my grandmother and see beef that was discolored green and very sticky. My granny would notice it as well as say, “We’ll just wash it before we cook it.” Now as an adult, I realize that that meat should not have been available for consumers to even purchase because it was spoiled.
Many black families live in communities without any supermarkets or, like in my case, supermarkets that provide poor quality of food. However, as black people, we tend make the best out of what we have: a trait that I attribute directly to our ancestors of slavery who had no choice, but to work with what they had, even if it was unhealthy.
My family was poor, and therefore, fruits and vegetables simply weren’t included in every meal, hardly at all. Furthermore, most of my Granny’s meals were baked, but her cooking method doesn’t represent that of many other black households’.
Because of the lack of education in health and nutrition that most low income black families possess, the importance of cooking with minimal salt and fats isn’t considered. Therefore, you’ll find that many black households fry much of their foods, use a lot of butter and salt for seasoning and flavor. Now although food with tons of butter and salt are usually scrumptious, they are also the reason for obesity in our community, which leads to diabetes.
But just as healthy eating is significant in the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes, so is exercising. However, the limited safe and accessible areas to be physical has proven to decrease many African Americans’ ability to be active. Many black communities lack clean and safe playgrounds and fitness facilities to exercise. Other households simply don’t enforce or encourage physical fitness, and therefore, more often than not, people tend to fall into a habit of laziness.
Overall, there is no scientific way to establish who will acquire Type 2 Diabetes. However, a prediction can be established based on one’s family history, lifestyle and eating habits.
The black community suffers the most from Type 2 Diabetes, plaguing over 13% of the population. Poor cultural eating habits that have roots in slavery, non-affordable, fresh produce, the marketing of high fats, sugars, and carbohydrates, and lack of fitness areas all contribute to the rise of diabetes in the black community.
Type 2 Diabetes in its early stages isn’t as sinister as it is after years of having it. If not taken care of properly, it can manifest into:
- Heart disease;
- Kidney disease;
- Long-term Nerve Damage (resulting in limb amputation);
- Food Conditions;
- Skin Infections;
- Visual Disturbances;
- And Life-Threatening Emergencies (such as: shallow breathing, pale, cool, sweaty skin, weak pulse, tremors and extreme weakness, nausea, confusion, drowsiness, and more).
Although Type 2 Diabetes can wreak havoc on one’s life, there are options to treat the disease:
- Drug Therapy
- Blood sugar reducing medications prescribed by doctors
- Lifestyle Change and Diet Monitoring
- Lifestyle and food are essential to controlling or even reversing Type 2 Diabetes. Blood sugar levels are directly influenced by what you eat. Exercising is essential in maintaining a healthy weight.
Of the two solutions to reverse or control Type 2 Diabetes listed above, a change in the lifestyle and diet are the preferred. This is because drug dependence, terrible side-effects, and negative long-term consequences are all associated with certain drugs used to control the disease.
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