Black Women & Diabetes – More than a Little Sugar
For Black women, the risk of developing diabetes is great. It affects 1 in 4 Black women ages 55 years and older and is listed as the fourth leading cause of death for all ages. Diabetes is also more prevalent among Black women than other ethnic groups as noted in the following facts:
- Diabetes affects nearly 12% of all Black women ages 20 and older. As we age, our risk of developing diabetes increases.
- While Black women ages 20 and older represent 15% of all diabetes cases, we only account for 13% of the total female population in the U.S.
- Black women are especially at risk due to high rates of overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Nearly 50% of Black females born in the year 2000 and beyond will likely develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes, often referred to as "sugar," is a serious, common and costly disease. It is a disease in which the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it makes effectively. Insulin is needed to help the glucose or sugar that is produced when a person digests food, enter the cells of the body. Diabetes is a lifelong condition and will steadily worsen unless a person makes consistent and healthy lifestyle changes.
Risk Factors for Diabetes
Lifestyle affects many of the "risk factors" of diabetes. Risk factors are conditions or habits that increase the chances of developing a disease or having it worsen. Many of the risk factors that can lead to developing Type 2 diabetes are common among Black women, including being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure and high cholesterol and lack of physical activity. These condition are linked to lifestyle choices such as diet and physical activity and can make living with diabetes more difficult and if lifestyle changes are not made - can make if life-threatening
For diabetes, there are two types of risk factors-those we cannot change and those we can control. The ones we cannot change are family history and age, which for women becomes a risk factor at or near the age of 55.
Most risk factors can be controlled. Often, all it takes are lifestyle changes. Here is a quick review of these risk factors:
- Overweight/Obesity. Nearly 80% of Black women are overweight and 51% are obese, increasing the risk not only of diabetes but a host of other conditions, including heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, arthritis and some cancers. Losing weight will help lower risk.
- Physical Activity. 55% of Black women are physically inactive-meaning they don't participate in any spare time or recreational physical activity.
- High Blood Pressure. Also called hypertension, is an important risk factor for the development and worsening of many complications of diabetes, including diabetic eye disease and kidney disease. Diabetes (sugar) is a serious condition in which the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it makes effectively. Insulin is needed to help the glucose (sugar) enter the cells of the body when a person digests food.
Diabetes Does Not Have to Be Our Destiny
There is good news. According to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), losing 5 to 7% of body weight can reduce one's risk for developing diabetes. So, you can take action and lower your chance of developing diabetes and its risk factors.
- Lasting weight loss is a result of change in lifestyle-adopt a healthy nutrition plan and get regular physical activity. The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has a tip sheet titled "More Than 50 Ways to Prevent Diabetes" (link to fact sheet) that contains nutrition tips and physical activity examples.
- Physical activity is crucial for good health. Try to do at least 30 minutes of a moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking or another activity that you enjoy such as dancing at least five days a week. If you need to, divide the period into shorter timeframes of at least 10 minutes each.