As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As an African American, no truer words were spoken when it comes to maintaining your health. Knowing and understanding the long term effects of a chronic disease and how to effectively manage them now will pay dividends when you’re older.
African Americans are predisposed to a triad of illnesses, all interconnected by their effects on the body. They are hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and kidney disease. Most in the healthcare profession call it a triad because nobody really knows whether chronic high blood pressure causes the kidney disease, or if an inherent undetected kidney disease leads to chronic high blood pressure. High blood pressure and kidney disease do not cause diabetes, however, diabetes can cause kidney disease which leads to the chronic high blood pressure. So if you can keep your high blood pressure and your diabetes under control, it can prevent the development of kidney disease.
Let’s say you are an African American male between the ages of 30-40 and you’ve recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure and non insulin dependent diabetes, or Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the body’s development of resistance to insulin (a hormone secreted by the pancreas to remove excess sugar in the blood). You don’t have to take insulin just yet because you can control your diabetes with diet. You check your blood glucose level every few days because hey, you’re not really a diabetic. Here’s a news flash-your diet wasn’t all that great to begin with, that’s why you’re now a non insulin dependent diabetic. By checking your blood sugar each day, twice a day, you will begin to understand what foods trigger a spike in your blood glucose levels. How do high blood glucose levels affect your body? In the short term you’ll experience excessive thirst, excessive hunger, and excessive urination, which are not catastrophic in the short term. However, continually having high blood sugar will cause blindness, neuropathy, cardiovascular disease, and maybe one of the only side effects that’s you’ll take seriously right now, ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION. Yes, I said it, if you do not learn how to effectively manage your diabetes now you will have erectile dysfunction later. How much later is up to you.
Without boring you with medical details, basically what happens is over time the blood vessels begin to harden and blood flow is hampered, especially in the smaller vessels. Think about the older people you know in your life that have poor vision, cold hands, cold feet, or who’ve had amputations. Chances are very good that they suffered from diabetes. The farther away from your heart the blood vessels are, the smaller they become, hence the cool hands, feet and episodes of erectile dysfunction. Once you have diabetes, the effects tend to accelerate and the atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) occurs much faster.
So consider this a wake-up call to take your health seriously now that you know the serious and not so serious effects on your body. In the next installment, we’ll cover some of the harsher side effects of what happens when diabetes gets out of control.