Just as disturbing is the fact that African Americans with diabetes are more likely to develop complications, have more disabilities, and die from their disease than whites. Diabetes complications include blindness, kidney disease, amputations, heart disease and stroke, and nerve damage.
A Special Point: More than 80% (8 out of every 10) adults with diabetes are overweight or obese. Therefore, one of the best health improvement tips to keep in mind is that weight control is closely related to preventing and controlling diabetes.
Some of the risk factors for diabetes – age, race and family history — are beyond our control. But others, especially weight and diet, are within our ability to control, and there is no better time than now to take the steps needed to control diabetes. However, there’s no question the challenge we face in controlling weight and diet is great. That’s because many minorities live in communities where healthy food and facilities for physical fitness are often low on the priority list, if they are priorities at all. Whether the underlying factors are mostly related to culture, attitudes, conditioning, or all three, the choices often made when it comes to eating and exercising are often poor ones, and there’s no better evidence of that than the fact that 80 % (4 out of every 5) African American women are overweight or obese, and about 50% (1 out of every 2) Hispanic and Native American women are also overweight or obese.
Think about these statistics for a moment. The good news is that much can be done to change them, although it’s not as easy as some think. Yet, there are many small but important lifestyle changes that can be made to help prevent and control diabetes – and these changes can be made by people at any economic level if they have a strong enough commitment, and develop and use a “Buddy System”, which health professionals often call a peer support system.
Here are some health improvement tips and lifestyle changes that can, and should, be made:
- Set a goal to lose at least 5 to 7 % of your current weight (that’s 10 o 14 pounds for a 200-pound person) by making healthy food choices and being more physically active. By putting yourself on this wellness track, says the National Diabetes Education Program, you can significantly cut the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.
- Make healthy food choices every day by choosing:
- High Fiber Foods such as peas, beans, grains, cereals, pasta, nuts, seeds;
- 5 Fruits and Vegetables Daily (Our Fruit and Vegetable Checklist gives many choices);
- Calcium-rich Foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, cheese;
- Less High Fat Foods like fatty meats, cold cuts, fried foods, poultry skin, butter;
- Less High Sugar Foods such as pastries, bakery products, non-diet sodas, desserts;
- Less High Salt, or Sodium, intake by not cooking with salt, not adding salt at the table, using fresh onion and garlic instead of onion salt and garlic salt, and avoiding meat tenderizer, soy sauce, and MSG.
- Eat smaller food portions – Order smaller portions when eating out as a way to cut down on calories and fat, and eat smaller portions at home.
- Make time to prepare and cook healthy meals. For example, instead of frying chicken, grill, bake or broil it. However, if you choose to fry, use olive oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, or soybean oil and skip the coconut oil. A baked sweet potato topped with reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream is a tasty side-dish option. Also, freeze portions of the healthy meals you prepare so you have meals ready for those days when you don’t have the time or are too tired to cook.
- Drink water as your drink of choice instead of sweetened fruit drinks or soda. By drinking a glass of water 10 minutes before your meal, you can take the edge off your hunger.
- Build physical activity into your regular day. To help reach your weight loss goal, you need at least 30 minutes of active physical activity at least 5 days a week, and you can do it in two 15-minute slots each day. For many of us, the best way to meet this goal is by taking a brisk walk five times a week. Also, consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, and getting off the bus a stop before you normally would, and hoofing it the rest of the way.
Taking steps like these is not just good advice – if you’re African American, Hispanic, or Native American, it could be life-saving advice. Break the cultural habits that often bind many of us to poor habits, and make the kind of lifestyle choices that defy the statistics and make it possible to lead healthy lives, free of diabetes and if you have diabetes, in control of it in order to avoid unnecessary complications.
Our www.healthpowerforminorities.com website contains a wealth of information on how to markedly decrease your risk of getting diabetes and its complications, by controlling your weight. There are multiple Tip Sheets on the Health Power website that can prove extremely helpful to you in achieving this goal, including:
Tips for Reading Food Labels
Smart Diet Tips
Cooking Good and Eating Healthy Tips
Celebrity & Chef Recipes and Cultural Specialty Recipes
10 Diabetes Prevention and Control Tips
Key Tips on Physical Activity and Exercise
Weight Control Tips