Diabetes is one of the biggest health issues facing African American communities today. In fact, African Americans in the United States are 77 percent more likely to have diabetes compared with other communities and are more likely to develop related complications.

The good news is that the African American community is becoming more educated about the signs and treatment options for diabetes and is engaged with many current initiatives designed to improve and enhance diabetes care. 

For those already managing diabetes or caring for a loved one with diabetes, consider the following advice:

Accept family

There’s no downplaying the role of your healthcare team, including your doctor and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), for ongoing support when it comes to managing diabetes. However, don’t discount the support of your local community and churches. If you are a spiritual person, talk with your fellow parishioners about your life with diabetes, related physical afflictions, your healing process and the connection between faith and medicine. Often, the empowerment and motivation to move forward comes from your faith and the support of those who share that with you.

The reality is that when people with diabetes access the education and support they need to prevent complications they can be as happy as those without diabetes.

Include family

Because diabetes is a family condition, family is part of a diabetes treatment plan. The whole family can support a loved one with diabetes by buying healthy foods, providing encouragement and doing things together like walking, swimming or biking.  A healthy, active lifestyle is important for the entire family and everyone benefits from regular exercise, a well-rounded diet and family togetherness. 

Keep learning

There are many common misconceptions about diabetes. The reality is that when people with diabetes access the education and support they need to prevent complications they can be as happy as those without diabetes. Being diagnosed with diabetes often motivates people to make healthier choices.  Remember there are healthcare professionals, like a CDE, with the specialized expertise who can offer guidance and a customized care plan to fit your needs, lifestyle and frame of mind. 

Remember, true diabetes care is not just having a healthy lifestyle, but maintaining a stable home and work environment along with receiving the ongoing support of communities, family and a strong health care team. The more supported and “in charge” you feel, the more motivated you will be to make the right choices for living your best life.