UNITED STATES—How often do you go to the doctor? No, that is a serious question that I am proposing. Some of us would like to think going to the doctor every blue moon or only when we get sick is a good idea, but I honestly beg to differ. When you have a family history of a certain disease, it’s always important to be screened, but be aware of risk factors that can impact you in the long run if you are not careful. Recently, in my family it has been a crisis with members dealing with Type II diabetes.

I’d rather not go into the specifics about a detail-by-detail analysis of the disease, but it is something that can be managed. For starters, it’s not just a disease for those who are overweight. This is a major myth that so many people in American society suspect; anyone of any race and any size can develop Type II diabetes, while weight is a contributor to those who eventually catch the disease, it is not the sole factor.

Recent research has shown that diet, exercise, stress, education and environment are all factors that can elevate one’s risk of developing the disease that seems to be spreading like an epidemic, not just in the African-American community, but in the world as a whole. Let’s just put it out there: sugar is bad people! However, I am human just like everyone else and we all crave it, but for diabetics it’s that much worse. Sweets are a big no-no, and even if you indulge in a sweet, you have to ensure it doesn’t lead to a spike in one’s blood sugar.

Another big proponent contributing to the epidemic is carbonated drinks and soda. Yes, pop, soft drink, soda, whatever you choose to call it depending on what region of the country you live in is fine with me. Just note, it’s not something you should not overindulge in. Just think, 1 can, and I mean 1 can of soda is like eating 8-10 teaspoons of sugar. Yes, it sounds disgusting, but when you’re drinking that soft drink it may not. However, just visualize that image of you eating scoop after scoop of sugar; that is what you’re placing in your body.

The one thing I want to discuss more than anything that can help us not only curb the statistics pertaining to Type II diabetes, but our overall health is: exercise! We have to get out and be more active people. Yes, it sucks and it sucks a ton to even fathom the thought of a 30-minute jog or working out on the elliptical or treadmill. However, look at the bigger picture, that 30 minutes of cardio, strength-training or whatever type of physical activity you choose to indulge in could prevent a disease from changing your life!

At the same time, you place yourself in a situation to add on more years to your life. I mean I don’t want to ok the statistic that it is normal for a guy to die in their mid-70s, heck I want to live to 100 plus years like Kirk Douglass. While death is inevitable for all of us, that does not mean we have to just allow it to come and take us early because we’re not watching our health or looking at ways to prevent certain ailments from taking years from our lives.

For many Americans our health should be a top priority, yet we place it on the backburner to focus our attention on other things. Remember, you can only be around for your family if you’re taking care of your body. Your body is like a machine that needs to be operating at full capacity each day. When you fail to adequately prevent fatty and sugary foods from controlling the outcome, not only are you hurting yourself, but your family as well.