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Families, Friends Support Elimination of Diabetes During National Capital Step Out Walk

WI Staff | 10/27/2010, 8:28 p.m.
Thousands of area families braved the winds and took to the streets of Southeast to...
Lourdes Laguna, 25, Jessica Wright, 25, Tracy Barry-Austin, 25 and Ayanna Peeples, 25, celebrate finishing the American Diabetes Association Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes outside Nationals Stadium in Southeast. The childhood friends walked to support Laguna and Barry-Austin, both of whom have Type 1 Diabetes. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

Thousands of area families braved the winds and took to the streets of Southeast to participate in the American Diabetes Association - Stop Diabetes campaign, Step Out. The event, held Sat. Oct. 23 at Nationals Stadium in Southeast, saw entire families and the friends of those living with diabetes walking or running up to five miles in support of their fight. The Walk came just days before the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention suggested that national diabetes rates could skyrocket by the year 2050 if the obesity rate continues to rise.

There were approximately 18.2 million cases of diabetes in the United States reported in 2002. Of these cases, 206,000 were in people under the age of 20. While that number may seem small compared to the total number of cases of diabetes, the disease has become more prevalent in youth because of a decrease in exercise and physical activity and an increase in unhealthy eating habits.

The Landon family of Hyattsville, Md. came out in full force, with fourteen members of their family, ranging in age from 3 months to 70 years, to support those with the disease.

"My grandfather had diabetes that we called 'sugar', but we didn't take it seriously and he continued to eat what he wanted when he wanted," Darniece Landon said. Landon's grandfather lived to nearly one hundred, but loss both of his legs to diabetes before his death. When three of her five sons were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Landon, 45, said it made her think twice about healthy living.

"Two of my sons are still teenagers. They have been eating junk food and fast food for years even though they are not overweight and it scared me to think that they would start loosing toes and legs like my grandfather did. When I read that the disease was preventable and manageable if you eat better, I was determined get my family healthy," Landon said.

Lisa Pearce, helps register ADA walkers alongside members of Girl Scout Troop 1116 of Upper Marlboro, Md. The young ladies, Nayia Douglas, 12, Shayla Ross,12, Jasmine Pearce, 10, and Ariel-Kentish Davis, 11, said they took part in the walk to help bring awareness of the disease to younger people who are developing diabetes at alarming rates. Photo by Shantella Y. Sherman
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles. Type 1 Diabetes results from the body's failure to produce insulin, the hormone that "unlocks" the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. It is estimated that 5-10% of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes results from insulin resistance (a condition in which the body fails to properly use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency. In adults, Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Melody Poindexter, ADA Senior Director of Programs said that while it may be tough to monitor or eliminate sugars and processed foods from a healthy diet, small steps slowly lead to better habits.

"Many people have become so busy in their careers that they consume large amounts of either fast food or precooked foods from grocery stores. The problem is that unless you cook foods yourself, you cannot be sure of the sugar and salt content. Our communities have shifted from home cooked, traditional meals to those that are quick and the additives are what support the increase of diabetes," Poindexter said.

To make bypassing the hot bar and drive-thru easier, Poindexter recommends taking a single day each week to prepare meals for the remaining days. In addition to promoting healthier food consumption,
cooking food at home also promotes the return of the family hour where elders, parents, and children prepared meals together.

The American Diabetes Association is the only non-profit organization supporting all 23.6 million Americans living with diabetes--including Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes; children and adults. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services
to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes.

"My rule is that you should eat like a kid for breakfast, a queen (or king) for lunch, and a pauper for dinner, meaning, you cannot eat heavy and rich foods close to bedtime because they will not break down properly. Once we learn how what we eat impacts how we live and alter our behavior accordingly, I believe we can stamp out diabetes," Poindexter said.
Antionette Willis, 45, of Clinton, Md. receives cheers from volunteers on her final lap of the American Diabetes Association Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes event on Oct. 23 in Southeast. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah