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What Blacks Need to Know About Diabetes

Nnpa | 8/15/2011, 5:39 a.m.

Sugar and sweets are always pleasant to eat and taste so good. On the other hand, consumption of too much sugar is deemed unhealthy and can lead to rotten teeth, cavities and even unwanted weight gain.

Many people also tend to believe eating sugar is the result of diabetes, according to Pam Davis, diabetes educator for Novo Nordisk Inc.

"A lot of times people believe that they ate too much sugar and that is what caused their diabetes," Davis said.

However, many people may not know that sugar plays a vital role in the body and affects its energy levels. After meals, carbohydrates are broken down and turned into sugar, or glucose. During digestion, sugar enters the bloodstream. As a result, sugar from food and carbohydrates causes the body's blood sugar levels to increase. The insulin in your body is then used to open up some of the cells in your body allowing the sugar to exit the bloodstream and enter into the cells for energy. The insulin is also used to balance the sugars out which in turn lowers blood sugar.

But for some, this may become a problem. In Type 1 diabetes, the body produces too little or no insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, the body is insulin resistant sometimes making too much insulin and the body is unable to use it properly. In both cases, Type 1 and Type 2, sugar is not allowed into the cells and stays in the blood stream, causing extremely high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. In Type 1 diabetics, insulin is then injected to regulate blood sugars, and in Type 2 diabetics, exercise and oral medications are taken.

According to http://www.novonordiskcommunitycare.com, one out of 12 Americans has diabetes. Typically doctors test and can tell if you have the disease if you have an A1C of 6.5 percent or higher or your blood sugar levels are higher than 126. The A1C is an average number from your blood glucose levels over the course of two to three months. A healthy A1C should be no higher than seven percent. Symptoms include constant and frequent trips to the restroom, being thirsty and hungry more than often, unusual weight loss, frequent periods of fatigue, irritability, blurry vision, wounds that won't heal and numbness or tingling hands or feet.

"In reality, there's a lot of things that contribute to why people have diabetes and so often times it's multiple factors that kind of gang up on them that cause diabetes to come to be. And certainly what you eat can play a role in those factors presenting themselves. But, for instance, genetics, having a family history of diabetes, age, ethnicity, all of those kinds of things that we cannot change are kind of the underlining things that we always have to look at," Davis explained. In 2010, out of the 3,284,300 people living in the state of Texas with diabetes, 460,700 were African Americans. By the year 2025, the number of African Americans with diabetes is projected to raise to 814,300, pursuant to the Institute for Alternative Futures.