African Americans Fearlessly Face Diabetes

10/30/2008, 12:11 p.m.

Singer Angie Stone learned to manage six small meals a day once she was diagnosed with diabetes, even when she goes on the road to sing. Stone was a guest speaker at a Diabetes Expo at Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church on Sat., Oct. 26. Courtesy Photo

Singer and songwriter Angie Stone encouraged approximately 250 African Americans to face diabetes by taking charge of and learning to manage the disease. They braved the rain to come out to hear Stone tell her story about her struggle with diabetes at The F.A.C.E. (Fearless African Americans Connected and Empowered) Diabetes Campaign event at Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in D.C. on Sat., Oct. 26.

F.A.C.E. is a grassroots movement targeting African Americans in the U.S. to help individuals, families and neighborhoods to successfully detect and manage their diabetes.

€My family and I, mother, father and my two young children, were taking a car trip to an amusement park for the day. We had to travel about four hours to get there. I became very thirsty. I€d drink so much water that less than an hour later, I asked him to stop again so I could go to the bathroom, and I drank more and more water,€ Stone said.

€I didn€t know what was wrong, I just knew I was very thirsty and because of drinking so much water, I needed to go to the bathroom again about every 40 minutes, which was as long as I could wait to stop. We finally made it to the amusement park but by then, I was so sick that I could not enjoy myself.€

The nurse at the park, after a quick examination, told Stone to see a doctor and get tested as soon as she returned home. After tests at her doctor's at home, Stone discovered that she had diabetes.

"Although my mother had diabetes, I never dreamed I had it because I was not one to eat fast foods, or drink sodas, nor was I overweight. But I found out I had inherited diabetes from my mother. It can be a generational thing or just affect some members of the family like it did me," Stone said.

Those who attended the conference found out that diabetes affects more than three million African American families in the United States and are 1.6 times more likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic Whites. Twenty-five percent of African Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes and are 2.6 to 5.6 times as likely to suffer from kidney disease. African Americans are more likely than Whites to suffer from lower limb amputations.

Amy McKelvin, 58, said she manages her meals by planning ahead.

"I eat six small meals a day. I work everyday but I prepare my meals several days ahead. It's easy because you can prepare and put them in containers in the freezer so each day you can take several small meals with you to work," McKelvin said.

"The same way you go to the store and pick and choose, you can prepare food ahead and pick and choose from your freezer to take with you. With six meals a day, you don't get as hungry as you would if you didn't eat breakfast and waited until lunch time to load up on fast food sandwiches and a soda. You have already skipped breakfast and a mid-morning snack, so you are starving by lunch time, but you can do it," she said.

The F.A.C.E. Diabetes Campaign is sponsored by the Eli Lilly Company. For more information on Fearlessly Facing diabetes, go to www.FACE-Diabetes.com .