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Black Men and Diabetes: Preventing It, Managing It

African Americans have a 50% chance of developing diabetes, but most black men pay little heed to the warnings -- and pay the price. Fortunately, type 2 diabetes is both preventable and manageable.

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When black men have diabetes, they're also much more likely to develop one or more of the serious complications associated with the disease, including amputation, kidney failure, blindness, and cardiovascular disease. For example, African Americans are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to have a limb amputated than are others with diabetes.

African-American men need to know how to prevent type 2 diabetes and how to control it if they already have it, says Coleman. "A lot of people have a fatalistic attitude that if your mother and your father and your grandmother had diabetes, that you're destined to have it and there's nothing you can do about it, and that's just not true."

"Start by setting achievable goals," advises Jane Kelly, MD, director of the National Diabetes Education Program, a joint effort of the CDC and the National Institutes of Health. "Not just long-term goals like losing 50 pounds, but goals for next Tuesday. Set goals like walking 10 minutes a day, or having one scoop of ice cream for dessert instead of two. Small steps add up. Write them down and commit to them, and ask a friend to monitor you."

Some simple strategies to add healthy, diabetes-prevention strategies into your lifestyle:

  • Share your dessert. "Many people in the African-American community tell us that it's rude not to eat when someone offers food, so instead of passing up something you enjoy and offending your host, split dessert with a friend," says Kelly. And if your host urges you to take seconds, skip the potatoes and bread and ask for more of the green stuff!
  • Build exercise into your day. "You don't have to take an hour off work to exercise," Kelly says. "Get off the bus one stop earlier, or park your car at the far side of the lot whenever you go to the grocery store or the mall."
  • Drink more water. "Find a souvenir water bottle you really like, such as something with the logo of your favorite sports team, or your church," says Kelly. "Keep it with you as encouragement to drink more water instead of taking in calories from sugary sodas and juices."

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