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African Americans and Diabetes

Imani Sankofa

Compared to the general population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes:

* 3.7 million or 14.7% of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have diabetes.
* African Americans are 1.6 times more likely to have diabetes as non Hispanic whites.

Diabetes Complications


Diabetes is associated with an increased risk for a number of serious, sometimes life-threatening complications and certain populations experience an even greater threat. Good diabetes management can help reduce your risk. However many people are not even aware that they have diabetes until they develop one of its complications.

Blindness: African Americans are almost 50% as likely to develop diabetic retinopathy as non-Hispanic whites.

Kidney Disease: African Americans are 2.6 to 5.6 times as likely to suffer from kidney disease with more than 4,000 new cases of End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) each year.

Amputations: African Americans are 2.7 times as likely to suffer from lower-limb amputations. Amputation rates are 1.4 to 2.7 times higher in men than women with diabetes.

Heart Disease and Stroke: Heart disease and stroke account for about 65% of deaths in people with diabetes. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes. The risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher and the risk of death from stroke is 2.8 times higher among people with diabetes.

Men and Heart Disease: Deaths from heart disease in men with diabetes have decreased by only 13 percent compared to a 36 percent decrease in men without diabetes.

Women and Heart Disease: In women with diabetes, deaths from heart disease have increased 23 percent over the past 30 years compared to a 27 percent decrease in women without diabetes.

Nerve Damage: Diabetic neuropathy is a serious complication of diabetes that affects millions of people every day. Nerves damaged by diabetic neuropathy can cause stinging or burning sensations, tingling, pain, numbness or weakness in the hands and feet. Diabetic neuropathy puts you at risk for foot injury, infection, even amputation.

For more information on diabetes and other complications, visit Diabetes Statistics on diabetes.org.

Diabetes Statistics for African Americans

Approximately 2.7 million or 11.4% of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have diabetes. However, one-third of them do not know it.

The most life-threatening consequences of diabetes are heart disease and stroke, which strike people with diabetes more than twice as often as they do others. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates 2 to 4 times higher than those without diabetes. African Americans with diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke and other macrovascular complications. Other complications of diabetes include blindness, kidney disease, and amputations.

Diabetes is the fifth deadliest disease in the United States, and it has no cure. The total annual economic cost of diabetes in 2002 was estimated to be $132 billion, or one out of every 10 health care dollars spent in the United States.
Prevalence

* African Americans are 1.6 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Latino whites.
* 25% of African Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes.
* One in four African American women over 55 years of age has diabetes.

African Americans and diabetes-related complications

African Americans experience higher rates of at least four serious complications of diabetes: cardiovascular disease, blindness, amputation and end stage renal disease (kidney failure).

* Heart disease strikes people with diabetes more than twice as often as it strikes people without diabetes. People with diabetes are five times more likely to suffer strokes and once having had a stroke, are two to four times as likely to have a recurrence. Deaths from heart disease in women with diabetes have increased 23% over the past 30 years compared to a 27% decrease in women without diabetes. Deaths from heart disease in men with diabetes have decreased by only 13% compared to a 36% decrease in men without diabetes.

* Diabetic retinopathyis a term used for all abnormalities of the small blood vessels of the retina caused by diabetes, such as weakening of blood vessel walls or leakage from blood vessels. African Americans are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes-related blindness.

* Diabetes is the most frequent cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputations. The risk of a leg amputation is 15 to 40 times greater for a person with diabetes. More than 60% of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations in the U.S. occur among people with diabetes. Each year, 82,000 people lose their foot or leg to diabetes. Among people with diabetes, African Americans are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to suffer from lower limb amputations.

* Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 43% of new cases. Ten to 21% of all people with diabetes develop kidney disease. In 2000, 41,046 people with diabetes initiated treatment for kidney failure, and 129,183 people with diabetes underwent dialysis or kidney transplantation. African Americans with diabetes are 2.6 to 5.6 times more likely to suffer from kidney disease.

Prevention of Complications of Diabetes

* Glucose control. Improved blood glucose control benefits people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. For every 1 point reduction in A1C, the risk for developing microvascular complications (eye, kidney and nerve disease) decreases by up to 40%.

* Blood pressure control. Blood pressure control can reduce cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) by 33% to 50% and can reduce microvascular disease (eye, kidney and nerve disease) by approximately 33%.

* Control of blood lipids. Improved control of cholesterol and lipids (e.g. HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) can reduce cardiovascular complications by 20% to 50%.

* Preventive practices for eyes, kidneys and feet. Detection and treatment of diabetic eye disease with laser therapy can reduce the development of severe vision loss by an estimated 50% to 60%. Comprehensive foot care programs can reduce amputation rates by 45% to 85%.

What Is Needed?

In ideal circumstances, African Americans with diabetes will have their disease under good control and be monitored frequently by a health care team knowledgeable in the care of diabetes.

* Patient education is critical. People with diabetes can reduce their risk for complications if they are educated about their disease, learn and practice the skills necessary to better control their blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and receive regular checkups from their health care team. Smokers should stop smoking, and overweight African Americans should develop moderate exercise regimens under the guidance of a health care provider to help them achieve a healthy weight.

* People with diabetes, with the help of their health care providers, should set goals for better control of blood glucose levels, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

* Health care team education is vital. Because people with diabetes have a multi-system chronic disease, they are best monitored and managed by highly skilled health care professionals trained with the latest information on diabetes to help ensure early detection and appropriate treatment of the serious complications of the disease. A team approach to treating and monitoring this disease serves the best interests of the patient.

Imani Sankofa / Author & Editor

As a result of working with Imani, women learn to reduce stress, release weight, and reconnect to life. Imani is looking to work with women who are interested in peace of mind, improved health, and creating a life they love.

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