November 20, 2012

Milwaukee Courier

Diabetes Awareness Month

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

The holiday season is an occasion to reflect on life, love, family, and all the joys that surround us. So many wonderful moments and memories have been shared, and will continue to be shared during these upcoming months.  It is also a time to think about the health and needs of those in our own homes and communities.

November is American Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness and enhance prevention and care for a disease that affects nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States.  Age, gender, and genetics are all factors that play into the possibility of having the disease, but lifestyle choices can also greatly increase or decrease the chance of developing the disease.  Diabetes places a huge economic burden on the healthcare system (around $200 billion every year). 

While the effects of Diabetes may appear to be minor and manageable, for many the disease is a medical nightmare.  In some cases, it threatens lives.  Diabetes greatly increases the chance of having a heart attack or stroke and often causes nerve damage.   It is the leading cause of kidney failure, new cases of blindness, and raises the amputation rate of limbs tenfold.  Perhaps what is most upsetting about these consequences is that the disease has gone largely unnoticed, even though it affects so many of our lives.

In 2011, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services conducted a study estimating that 10% of Wisconsin was diabetic.  13% of Milwaukee Country have the disease. Even more shocking, the number of diabetic African Americans in Wisconsin is nearing 22%.  Additionally, almost 16% of Hispanics have Diabetes. These numbers are unacceptable! 

While the number of children with Diabetes remains low, it is rising around the country.  More cases of Type 2 Diabetes are being reported, and Type 2 Diabetes was once unheard of in children!  If you are anything like me, my child is my reason for living.  We have to protect the children by starting healthy habits at home and in school.

Many things must be taken into account when dealing with this disease, including family history, access to healthcare, and economics. When these factors put someone at risk for developing Diabetes, they seem almost impossible to overcome.  And while something like your genetics may stack the deck against you, failing to pursue healthy lifestyle choices can ultimately deal you a losing hand.

Here in Milwaukee, we are fortunate to have a strong community ties.  Try reaching out to a neighbor to plan a healthy dinner or organizing outdoor activities for children.  You can take steps for yourself and your children to stay healthy.  Prevention is simple: eating nutritious meals and exercising a few times every week can make a big difference.  It is important to have an open conversation with your children about appropriate food and spending more time outdoors.  It is also important for children to always get a full night’s sleep. Let’s be leaders for our state and country by starting strong at home! Staying active in Milwaukee can be easy, and fun: below are some links for families or individuals looking to explore our great city and stay fit!