Dominique Wilkins: “Diabetes is not a curse”

Dominique Wilkins to speak at 12th annual Diabetes EXPO

The 12th annual Diabetes EXPO will be held Saturday October 10, 9 am to 3 pm at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  Organizers expect over 8,000 people from all over Minnesota and western Wisconsin to attend the free, one-day event.

Retired NBA star Dominique Wilkins is among the featured speakers at the EXPO, which includes health care sessions, free health screenings and cooking demonstrations.  He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 40.

Dominique Wilkins
Dominique Wilkins

“Diabetes is not a curse,” said Wilkins in a recent MSR phone interview.  “You have to refocus yourself” in order to properly manage it, he points out.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) states that over 29 million people in the U.S. are affected by diabetes and another 88 million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes.  If not diagnosed and treated early, or if not properly managed, it can lead to amputations, kidney failure, blindness, heart disease and stroke.

Over 13 percent of all Blacks age 20 or older have been diagnosed with diabetes, and Blacks are almost two times more likely to have diabetes than “non-Hispanic” Whites. “[It] is one of the most serious health problems that the African American community faces today,” says the ADA fact sheet.

“I had to lose weight. I had to change my diet. Once I started making these life changes, I felt so much better,” said Wilkins.  Both his father and grandfather had diabetes and died from it, but Wilkins points out, “We didn’t take it serious[ly].  I didn’t take it seriously that it could happen to me.”

But once he learned he had diabetes, “I wouldn’t let myself go through what my father and grandfather went through because I have children,” said Wilkins. “I want to be around to see my children.  I want to be around to see my children grow and become prosperous.  [The] only way I can do that is take care of me, and that’s what I did.”

“Diabetes affects everyone, not just African Americans,” notes Wilkins, who has done work with several groups, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  He launched “Nique and Newt’s Full-Court Press on Diabetes” with former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich in 20078, and was honored by the Georgia State Legislature in 2010, naming him the state’s “Diabetes Ambassador.”

Additionally, Wilkins recently started “Dominique’s Diabetes Dream Team” to help adults with type 2 diabetes.

The Basketball Hall of Fame inductee proudly says he treats diabetes “as an opponent I had to compete against.  When you are a great athlete, you think you are invincible, and nothing like that [will] happen.  When you are in great shape, and in training, diabetes is very hard to detect.  It wasn’t until my life slowed [and] I wasn’t training or eating the same foods [any more], I found out I had [what] a lot of Americans have.”

[By] getting regular medical check-ups, eating right and exercise, along with proper medication, diabetes can be managed, said Wilkins. “You got to find options that work for you,” he said. “I found something that works for me.  You have to search and find medication that works for you.  It may not work for everyone.”

Saturday’s Diabetes EXPO offers Wilkins yet another opportunity to speak on the importance of managing diabetes, which primarily means “physical activity and diet change,” he added.

“I always look forward to talking to people,” said Wilkins. “It is one of my passions.”


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