BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge native Elmo Winters is passionate about exercise. You can find him at his YMCA gym several days a week. However, that wasn't always the case. Winters has a family history of diabetes and was at high risk of developing it himself.
He's not alone. According to federal records, up to 20 percent of all African-American men have diabetes, and at least 10 percent of those are undiagnosed cases.
"The problem with diabetes is that it leads to a number of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease and more devastating things such as blindness and amputations," explained Pennington Biomedical Research Center Professor Dr. Robert Newton.
As an African-American man, Winters knew his risks. When he lost his wife to complications from the disease, he knew he had to take control of his health.
"For the past several years of her life I watched her health decline to the point where- she was a school teacher- she had to come out of the classroom and eventually lost all quality of life. That was a great motivation for me," said Winters.
Winters enrolled in the ARTIIS study from LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The study is asking a simple question, can exercise prevent the development of diabetes among African-American men?
"You name it, exercise is the only one 'pill' that can actually cure a lot of different chronic diseases," said personal trainer and study recruiter Emanuel Andrews.
Andrews says that in addition to improving the body's insulin resistance, heart function and strength, exercise can improve mood, energy and even productivity. He says the study teaches men how to exercise and how to make it a regular part of life.
ARTIIS needs African-American men ages 35 to 70 who have a family history of diabetes. Eligible participants come in for a health screening, and then are put into one two groups. One group simply learns about healthier lifestyles. The second group exercises regularly for five months with a trainer at a local YMCA facility, like Winters.
Newton, the lead investigator of the study, hopes that this will show how a little exercise will go a long way in preventing diabetes.