Fostering a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent diabetes

On Mother’s Day, we honored the women in our lives who influence our families and communities. This celebration of motherhood highlights the importance of family bonds and support, and how those close to us shape our lives. This month, when you’re spending time with loved ones, I encourage you to recognize the role we all play in fostering a healthy lifestyle for the entire family.

One of the most serious problems facing African American families today is diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the body cannot produce any or enough insulin. Diabetes afflicts millions of Americans and can lead to devastating health complications, including blindness, kidney failure and amputation. Each day, more than 2,000 Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, and experts predict that the number will nearly double by 2025.

Unfortunately, the disease disproportionately affects those of us in the African American community. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), African Americans are 1.8 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes – the most common form of the disease – than the general population. In total, an estimated 2.3 million African Americans, or a staggering 11 percent, have been diagnosed with diabetes, which is now the fourth-leading cause of death among African Americans. Many more are unaware they are at high risk, often because of a lack of symptoms or failure to get tested. The ADA recommends that those over 45 years of age should get tested especially if they have a family history of diabetes, an inactive lifestyle, and high blood pressure or cholesterol.

Diabetes has turned into an emerging public health problem, especially among youth, due to an increase in child obesity and inactivity. Especially now, parents, educators and community leaders should pay particular attention to how our children are eating and exercising. Taking simple steps to live a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing and managing diabetes. One of the nation’s most famous mothers, First Lady Michelle Obama, has made eating well and staying active her central cause, setting the example for her children, and inspiring millions of families to “move” together toward healthier decisions.

Because healthy eating and exercise aren’t always enough to manage diabetes, the right medication can complement patients’ treatment plans. Thanks to America’s biopharmaceutical companies, new research is leading the way toward better therapies and improved quality of life for many people with diabetes. In fact, 235 more medicines are in development as of 2010.

If you or someone in your family is diagnosed with diabetes, there are programs available to help you get the medicines that you need. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) has already helped connect more than six million patients with patient assistance programs that provide free or nearly-free medicines.

This month, make healthy habits a part of your daily routine, and act as a role model for your family and your community.

Larry Lucas is a retired vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

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