Why Diabetes is Higher in Black Americans & How to Lower Your RiskNov 19, 2020 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14 in more than 100 countries. This month was established in 1975, but the American Diabetes Association (ADA) trademarked it as American Diabetes Month in 1997.
This disease affects millions of Americans every year. Although White Americans are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes, Black Americans are disproportionately affected by type 2 diabetes. According to the Office of Minority Health (OMH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2017, African Americans were twice as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to die from diabetes.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) noted that researchers believe that genetic, environmental, socio-economic, physiological, and behavioral factors are all contributors to the higher rate of diabetes in Black Americans. Biological risk factors such as weight and fat around the abdomen are also said to be primarily responsible for higher rates of diabetes in Black Americans compared with White Americans.
While some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes in African Americans are beyond anyone’s control, there are some ways to reduce the risk of the disease.
Control weight through better dietary choices
Being overweight increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Reducing intake of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates may lower the risk. A study published in a 2018 issue of JAMA suggests that a ‘Southern’ diet, a diet high in sugar, sodium, and fat, may be the reason that Black people are more prone to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for diabetes.
It is no secret that smoking is bad for your health as it damages your lungs and your heart by lowering the amount of oxygen that gets to your organs. Smoking may make your body more resistant to insulin, which can lead to higher blood sugar levels. A study showed that smokers are 30% to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers. Smokers are also at greater risk of complications from diabetes, like kidney failure and heart disease.
Optimize Vitamin D levels
Studies have shown that people with lower levels of vitamin D have a greater risk for all types of diabetes. A 2011 Canadian study showed a clear association between low vitamin D levels in patients with insulin resistance and a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Good food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish like tuna and salmon, egg yolks and mushrooms. Sun exposure remains a great way to increase vitamin D levels in the blood.