There’s no better time than now for a wake-up call about the dangers of diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease. I refer to these as “the Big Four,” and for good reason. They strike hard and often at racial and ethnic minority or multicultural, populations. Consider this:
- Diabetes is “Much more than just a little touch of sugar”. Overall, 13% of African Americans (more than 1 out of every 10) have diabetes, and one-third of them (1 out of every 3) don’t even know they have it.
- Obesity, which can usually be avoided by burning off more calories than you take in, has become an epidemic among African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, especially among women. In fact, about one-half (50%) of these women are obese, and obesity in their children is growing at alarming rates.
- Special ‘Connection between Obesity and Diabetes’: About 8 out of every 10 adults with diabetes are overweight or obese. Therefore, avoiding obesity markedly decreases a person’s chances of developing diabetes.
- Hypertension: (high blood pressure) is called “the silent killer” because it often quietly leads to stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease. Of great concern, hypertension occurs in more African Americans than in any other group in the United States, as almost 1 out of every 4 African-Americans (38%) has hypertension, compared to about 1 out of every 3 (29%) white Americans.
- Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in African Americans and Hispanics.
A Special Point: Each of “the Big Four” either contributes to the development of another of “the Big Four”, or makes one or more of the other three conditions more difficult to control. So focus on the prevention, early detection and/or control of each of the serious negative effects of “The Big Four”, and take positive action against them.
Positive things you can do related to “the Big Four”:
Your 1st and best choice is to prevent them. That’s because prevention is always better than a cure. To prevent “the Big Four”, you must do two things:
- Know the key risk factors (or lifestyles and health practices) for all four conditions that increase your risk of developing them, and
- Act on the risk factors that you can change. By the way, some risk factors, like eating healthy and staying physically active/fitness, decrease the risk of developing all four.
I mention risk factors that can be changed because some risk factors, like family history of the condition, can’t be changed. However, since we wouldn’t want to change our families even if we could, we must give special attention to changing the risk factors we can, especially when there is a family history of the condition.
Your 2nd best choice is to delay the development of “the Big Four”, in case you’re going to eventually develop one or more of them. The best way to delay development is to do the same thing as for prevention, namely changing those risk factors that you can.
Your 3rd choice occurs if you already have one or more of “the Big Four”. In that case, it’s very important to control the condition(s) and not let the condition(s) control you. Too often, these conditions – diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease – go undiagnosed and untreated, thus paving the way for later severe illnesses, disabilities and early deaths, which affect entire families in addition to the involved individuals.
Although a family history increases your risk of getting each of “the Big Four”, the odds shift to your favor if you:
- Control your weight, which means limiting your calorie intake and doing regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week) in order to burn off as many calories as you take in, and remember that walking is a good exercise.
- Limit your salt, fat, sugar and alcohol intake and by all means, don’t smoke.
Click above on either of ‘the Big Four” for much more information in their special website sections. In addition, the Food Branch of our Food and Fitness Channel contains many delicious low calorie recipes, and Tip Sheets for shopping smart, cooking good and eating healthy. In addition, our by our Fitness Branch Editor, contains Tip Sheets to burn off calories and stay fit, such as calories burned by different activities, moving for the health of it, and walking for health and fitness.