By: Brenda Neugent
An icon in the world of hip hop, Rev Run is using his celebrity voice to draw attention to diabetes, a growing health risk that’s especially prominent in the African-American community.
It’s an issue close to Rev’s heart. His father lived with the disease, putting Rev at special risk. But rather than live in denial as he grew older, Rev chose to be proactive. He watches his weight, exercises, and makes healthy food choices. To help others, he serves as the spokesperson for the Novo Nordisk Ask. Screen. Know. Campaign, and speaks at sites across the country to raise awareness of the disease.
“It’s part of my journey,” he said during a recent telephone interview about his new role beyond music.
After speaking with friends regarding their own risk factors, he realized that even if they did regularly visit their doctors, diabetes testing wasn’t on their radar as much as it should be.
He also realized that many people were ignoring their risk factors, but thought his knowledge and celebrity background might allow him to serve as a voice of reason for not only his friends, but also his fans.
He’s talked diabetes at his induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on the news, during awards shows and more, doing his best to raise awareness of a problem that is growing in severity as our nation’s obesity levels also grow.
“Today, one in four Americans are likely to develop diabetes,” said Jeannette Jordan, a diabetes educator who is also part of the Ask. Screen. Know. Campaign and who will join Rev at several upcoming events. “African-Americans are two times more likely” to develop the disease, especially those 45 years and older.
The national program focuses on helping those at risk learn more about those risk factors-age, weight, family history, ethnicity, and a history of gestational diabetes-and encourage them to get tested. It also offers a wealth of educational resources to promote better health.
“I want people to be healthy and happy and have a full life,” said Rev, adding that being screened for diabetes is half the battle in overcoming the disease.
“What you don’t know, you can’t fix,” he said. “Do it for your families, do it for your loved ones.”
And those fixes don’t have to be major life changes, said Jordan. Simply trading sweet tea and sweet lemonade for water or sugar-free sodas can make a big difference.
“Diabetes is a controllable disease with simple lifestyle changes,” she said, adding that portion control, choosing smarter treats over candies and sweets, and getting moving-“Exercise is like medicine,” she added-can be enough to keep diabetes at bay.
For Rev, taking control of his health meant dropping 20 pounds, encouraging his family to move with him through driveway basketball games and walks with his wife and kids, and making smarter food choices.
“It’s on my mind constantly,” he said.
During a recent evening watching a game with friends, Rev skipped the cake others were enjoying in favor of a low-fat yogurt that satisfied his sweet tooth without compromising his efforts to prevent diabetes.
“It made me feel good when I went to bed that night that I did the right thing for my health,” he said.
The key, he added, is planning for hurdles like cake-“If you don’t get set up, you end up getting upset,” he said-so they don’t become roadblocks.
Rev Run and Jordan is scheduled to speak at the following upcoming events:
• Sunday, June 23, 12:30 p.m. Central Time (or immediately following the service), multipurpose room, Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, Salem Administrative Building, 10909 S. Cottage Grove, Chicago
• Sunday, June 30, 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time (or immediately following the service), St. Philip AME Church, 240 Candler Road, Atlanta, Ga.
To assess your risk factors for diabetes and to learn more about the Ask. Screen. Know. Campaign, visit http://www.askscreenknow.com.