When comedian Patrice O’Neal participated in Comedy Central’s Roast of Charlie Sheen, he and other comics poked fun at his diabetes. After O’Neal suffered a stroke just a few short weeks later, folks were reminded that the disease is no laughing matter.

Stroke is but one of the terrible health risks that diabetes sufferers face, and African-Americans are disproportionately affected by the disease. Nearly fifteen percent of all African Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes, with 25 percent of those between the ages of 65 and 74 having what we have come to know as “sugar.”

Diabetes refers to a group of ailments characterized by high levels of blood glucose (hence, the “sugar” nickname). While genetic risks, obesity, and lack of physical activity are largely to blame for the high number of African-Americans who are affected, the hidden or silent indicators are lack of sleep and environmental stress.

While diabetes is managable, there are serious complications that accompany the disease. Among them: blindness, kidney disease, amputations, and nerve damage — all of which are more common in African American diabetics than others. Also, heart disease and stroke account for 65% of diabetes related deaths.

Best wishes to Patrice for a full-recovery! In the meantime, take the time to asses your diabetes risk if you haven’t already.


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