Rev Run and Justine Simmons Share Their Diabetes Prevention Tips
African-Americans are 1.7 times more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. Rev Run is on a mission to make sure people know their risk and get screened.
By Moira Lawler
Medically Reviewed by Justin Laube, MD
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Joseph Simmons, better known as Rev Run of the hip-hop group Run-D.M.C., doesn’t have diabetes. But he and his wife, Justine Simmons, get checked at least once a year.That’s a smart move, because both sides of their family have a history of the disease, and almost 15 percent of African-Americans over age 20 have been diagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association. Not only that, but African-Americans with diabetes have a greater risk of developing complications such as blindness, amputation, and kidney disease.
The looming threat of diabetes hits close to home in the Simmons household. Justine lost her father to diabetes complications, and Rev’s dad has been diagnosed as well. The couple doesn’t want the same fate for themselves or their kids. So Rev and Justine have teamed up with Novo Nordisk for itsAsk.Screen.Know campaign, which encourages people to learn if they’re at risk of developing diabetes and learn how to get screened.
“I've become this voice asking everyone, ‘Did you get screened?’ and everybody kind of pushes me off and says, ‘I know what I’m doing here,’” Rev says. But your doctor might not always screen you for diabetes at your yearly physical, so you’ve got to ask him or her to tack it on, Rev says. When Rev’s friends and family finally get screened after years of simplythinkingthey were, he considers his work has paid off. “I like to be the guy to keep you aware,” Rev says.
Preventing Diabetes: A Family Affair
The family’s plan to avoid diabetes doesn’t just come down to a once-a-year screening: They build healthy habits into their daily lives to make sure they stay diabetes-free.
That starts with paying close attention to what they eat. The family leans on spices to add flavor instead of calorie- and fat-dense foods, and they’ve found lower-sugar options to serve as desserts. These days, Rev will reach for a piece of fruit instead of a cookie when he’s craving something sweet. “I'm happy with watermelon — very happy,” he says. “Fruit is working for me.” The family makes other swaps that cut down on calories but not flavor, such as brown-rice pasta rather than regular and MorningStar Farms Grillers Crumbles as a leaner base for sloppy joes than ground beef.
Physical activity is also a big part of their routine. On any given day, you’ll find Rev walking four laps around a track near his house. He says he does it for his own health (and to reach his step count goals) and doesn’t get hung up on competing with others. “I'll get behind an elderly couple and let them beat me and whatever, I'm walking,” he says. “I get my steps in, and I’m proud of myself.” Sometimes, the daily ritual becomes a family affair if his son Diggy tags along. “He's running, and I'm walking,” Rev says. “He goes around quicker than me, but I get there.”
Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly are two key known ways to help keep diabetes at bay, and they’re built into the family’s “health is wealth” mentality. “I learned it the hard way,” Justine says. “We were on vacation. I got the right house that I wanted to rent and had everything set up, but when we got there my husband wasn't feeling well, my daughter wasn't feeling well. And it made me see health should be before all of this.
Video: Wednesday: Rev Run & Justine Simmons Take Us Around the World
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