A friend’s brush with death related to diabetes motivated a local teen to get educated about the disease.

A friend’s brush with death related to diabetes motivated a local teen to get educated about the disease.

Fifteen-year-old Zae Gregory, an aspiring entertainer –– model, actress, singer, comedian, has added juvenile diabetes awareness advocate to her portfolio.

“My friend went into diabetic shock and she never told anybody that she even had diabetes,” Gregory told the Defender about a then-7th-grade friend. “I heard of it, but I thought it was for older people.”

Gregory’s grandmother and great-grandmother have diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults. About 1 in every 400 children and adolescents has type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes. Historically, type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed primarily in middle-aged adults, however, adolescents and young adults are developing type 2 diabetes at an alarming rate. The lack of exercise and increasing incidence of obesity are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, according to the association.

The scare was an eye-opening experience for the teen.

The Miss Teen Illinois USA 2010 finalist embarked on a speaking tour last August to get middle school and high schoolers involved in diabetes awareness. She spread the message in various health fairs and summer events in the Chicagoland area.

“I talk about what I care about and what I think is important,” said Gregory, a Chicago Arts Performing Arts High School student.

She found that many teens are insecure about telling others they have diabetes because it’s viewed as negative. Using the story about her friend’s diabetic collapse got her young audiences’ attention and helped them realize that keeping the disease to themselves could hurt more than help them.

Gregory also stressed the importance of good food choices to help reduce the risk of childhood obesity and stave of possibility of getting diabetes.

“McDonalds and Popeye’s are good, but we can’t eat it all the time. My mom and I are on the verge of becoming vegetarians,” she added.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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