LAKE COUNTY — During African-American History Month, the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan is taking a special effort to spread awareness of a condition which has particularly affected the African-American community: diabetes.

The organization said improving the public's understanding of diabetes is crucial, not only since it afflicts so many people, but because the symptoms of the disease can be devastating; this includes kidney failure, blindness, poor circulation, strokes and numerous other health problems.

"Being mindful about diabetes is very important because it's the most significant way people can prevent Kidney disease," said Mary Hiller, the NKFM communications coordinator. "We're providing programs in at-risk communities and we want to educate people about healthier living. We have four workshops in Muskegon and Norton Shores in February aimed at people who have or are at risk for diabetes."

The NKFM specifically chose February to get the word out due to it being African-American History Month. People of African-American heritage have a far higher likelihood of developing diabetes.

"African-Americans are twice as likely to develop diabetes as their Caucasian counterparts," explained Hiller. "This is due to health disparities which exist in certain communities and more African-Americans having a family history of diabetes."

NKFM officials want to remind the public the best way to combat diabetes is to prevent it. Changes in lifestyle can make all the difference, even in individuals genetically predisposed to the disease.

"You can adopt a healthy and balanced diet with lower fat items and more fruits and vegetables," said Hiller. "You can also be more physically active. We encourage people to get exercise or perform physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week."