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Diabetes

Diabetes is a life-long disease marked by elevated levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. It can be caused by too little insulin (a chemical produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar), resistance to insulin, or both. 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 macro vascular complications. Other complications of diabetes include blindness, kidney disease, and amputations.
Most African Americans (about 90 to 95 percent) with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes usually develops in adults and is caused by the body's resistance to insulin and to impaired insulin secretion. Although it is a very serious disease, diabetes can be treated with diet, exercise, diabetes pills, and injected insulin. A small number of African Americans (about 5 percent to 10 percent) have type 1 diabetes, which usually develops before age 20 and is always treated with 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 genetic and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

Major Types of Diabetes

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. This type of diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Sugar is the basic fuel for the cells in the body, and insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause two problems:
• Right away, your cells may be starved for energy.
• Over time, high blood glucose levels may hurt your eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.

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