It was a scratchy throat that wouldn’t clear up that sent Christopher Green to the doctor.
He was surprised, though, when he was told that instead of an allergy or virus of some kind that he had type 2 diabetes.
“I know that it runs in the family but previous doctors all said I was in good shape, just needed to shed a few pounds and watch cholesterol, the normal stuff,” said Green, who was diagnosed last year.
Fortunately for Green, now 28, who holds down a full-time job as consumer security tech in Clearwater, Florida, and attends classes full time at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, he is controlling his diabetes with diet and exercise.
“As much as possible, I take a bike to work. I walk around the office and I’m joining a gym” located near his office that offers a discount to company employees.
Green said he takes medication daily for high blood pressure and cholesterol, is cutting back on fast food, packs meals for school and work, keeps protein bars in his backpack in case of emergency, eats smaller portions and uses cookbooks that focus on meals for diabetics – including gluten-free recipes.
He also checks his blood sugar levels twice a day. His health insurance pays for the glucose meter and strips.
“It’s a challenge, but you’ve got to do it.”
Green’s doctor told him if he gets his weight down, exercises regularly and maintains a healthy diet, he may well be able to get off medication entirely.
Being alert to changes in his health and consulting with his physician made a big difference for Green.
The American Diabetes Association wants more Americans, especially black Americans, to become more aware of how to prevent and control the disease.
The association’s Alert Day, which is held every fourth Tuesday in March, is a one-day “wake-up call” asking the public to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
According to the Diabetes Association, nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have the disease and nearly 7 million of them don’t know it. In addition, another 79 million, or one in three American adults, have pre-diabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Diagnosis comes late to many people, as much as 7 to 10 years after the onset of the disease, usually after a health crisis, like a stroke, a diagnosis of heart disease or loss of vision.
People at high risk include those who are overweight, live a sedentary lifestyle and are over the age of 45. African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and people who have a family history of the disease also are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Research has shown, however, that diabetes can be prevented by losing as little as 7 percent of their body weight (i.e., 15 pounds for someone who weighs 200 pounds), eating better and exercising just 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
“You just make yourself do it,” Green said about having the tools at your disposal to improve your health. “You can have it all, but if you don’t use it, there’s a price to pay.”