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ARE AFRICAN-AMERICANS AT A HIGHER RISK OF DEVELOPING ​DIABETES? IF SO, IS IT MORE HEREDITARY OR DIET AND ​LIFESTYLE?

Yes, African-Americans have twice the risk of developing diabetes as white Americans. This is more likely attributed to diet and lifestyle factors. There is a higher rate of obesity in the African-American community and there is a direct link between obesity and diabetes.

Diet and exercise plays a key role in preventing and managing the onset of diabetes. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with daily activity and diets with food lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber as well as fruits, vegetables and whole grains is very important.

HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT A CHILD WILL DEVELOP DIABETES IF ​PARENT HAS IT?

Though there is a genetic component to developing diabetes, if a parent has diabetes, it does not necessarily mean a child will have it as well.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TYPE 1 AND TYPE 2 DIABETES?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does produce insulin but it cannot effectively use it.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, so therefore the body cannot produce the insulin it needs to absorb the glucose (sugar) out of the blood and bring it into the cells where it needs energy. Type 1 usually occurs early on in childhood. The exact cause is not known but it is probably a combination of the genes a person is born with and something in the environment that triggers the genes to become active.

Type 2 disease depends on many factors. People inherit genes that make them susceptible but it’s the lifestyle factors like obesity, poor diet and inactivity that contribute to its occurrence. Type 2 diabetes usually appears in adulthood after the age of forty. However, with the growing obesity epidemic we are starting to see it in younger children and adults.

DOES DIABETES AFFECT PH LEVELS IN WOMEN?

Yes, Diabetes can affect the pH levels in both men and women. There are many studies which look at foods and other entities which may change the acidity of the body and alter pH levels. The issue occurs when cells of the body do not receive the energy to function, which is in the form of glucose and changes in the body mechanics can occur. The take home message is a balanced diet overall is what is important to avoid changes in the body pH.

IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS OTHER ​THAN THE OBVIOUS: BEING MINDFUL OF SUGAR INTAKE?

Diet and lifestyle choices are key factors. Adopting a healthier diet with foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber as well as incorporating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is extremely important. Fiber is key because it helps you feel full longer and it helps to slow the body’s absorption of sugar, which helps keep the levels controlled.

Aim for more physical activity. 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day is recommended. Try to get in some strength training, if possible. Exercise not only lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes, it lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke as well. Most important is weight loss. Just losing 7% of your body weight can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes. Make sure to consult with your doctor before starting any new diet and exercise regimen.

ARE DIABETES PATIENTS ON ORAL MEDICINE OR INSULIN FOR THE ​REST OF THEIR LIFE?

Patients with type 1 diabetes will require lifelong insulin. There can be a honeymoon period after diagnosis where the levels return to normal for a short period of time but the disease recurs. However, patients with type 2 disease can come off or decrease their medications with weight loss and dietary adjustments. Thin people get diabetes as well, so it’s not just all diet and exercise, your genes play a role, too.

​WHAT OPTIONS DO I HAVE IF MY BLOOD SUGAR DROPS TOO LOW?

Low blood sugar can happen in people with diabetes who take medicines that increase insulin levels in the body. Taking too much medication, skipping meals, eating less than normal or exercising more than usual can lead to low blood sugar.

People can experience sweating, shakiness, extreme hunger, nausea, dizziness, headache and blurred vision as well as fast heartbeat and feeling anxious. If this occurs, quickly eating or drinking an easily digested carbohydrate food such as 1/2 cup of fruit juice or regular soda, 4 or 5 hard candies, saltine crackers, or 3 or 4 teaspoons of honey or sugar is recommended. See your doctor immediately.

WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST PEOPLE DO IF THEY FEAR THEY MAY ​BE AT RISK OF HAVING DIABETES? WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS?

If there are any questions or concerns, people should see their doctor immediately. In Type 1 diabetes patients may experience thirst, hunger and fatigue. However, the first symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may not show up for years. Early symptoms can include frequent infections, fatigue, frequent urination, thirst, hunger, blurred vision and erectile dysfunction in men, numbness or pain in hands and feet.

WHAT CAN FAMILY MEMBERS HELP THEIR LOVED ONES DEALING ​WITH DIABETES?

Family can help by playing an active role in supporting the one with diabetes by joining in with adopting a healthy lifestyle with activity exercise and a healthy diet. It helps children develop good habits early and it helps the adults maintain those habits throughout their lifetime.

For the past 20 years, Lynn M. O’Connor M.D. has made it her mission to provide women with the foremost treatment, technology and information related to preventative public health issues and colon and rectal health. Not only is she an outstanding surgeon, but she is the Director of the Women’s Colorectal Care Program, at ProHealth Care Associates in Long Island, New York. Dr. O’Connor also consults in regards to dietary and colon health emphasizing Exercise, Diet and Obesity Prevention. The Yale University alum is a a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the devoted mother of a teenage daughter.Follow Dr. O’Connor on FaceBook at @LynnOConnorMD.

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