Diabetes changed Marlela L.J. Clark-LeBeouf’s life nine years ago.

“It’s a challenge every day,” said Clark-LeBeouf, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the most serious form of the disease, at age 21.

Clark-LeBeouf, 30, said there is the constant battle to exercise and eat right in an effort to keep weight and blood sugar levels down.

“I’ll work out six times that week, and my levels just will not do right,” she said. “On days like that, I’m just really discouraged because it’s not like it’s something you’re doing, but any little thing affects your sugar levels. If I’m stressed out about work, my blood glucose is going to be high no matter what I’m consuming.”

There’s also the issue of always being ready to treat the disease at any time or any place.

“It’s all about preparation. I have to have all my medicines, and I have to make sure I have snacks,” said Clark-LeBeouf, who recently visited a friend in Atlanta. “I have to stock up on stuff. I can’t just get up and go like everyone else.”

Because she has become well-aware of the lifestyle and other challenges of being a diabetic, Clark-LeBeouf has worked tirelessly to inform others about the disease.

In the past four years, Clark-LeBeouf has worked with “Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes,” a fundraiser benefiting the American Diabetes Association. She will again be among the leaders at this year’s event, set for 9:30 a.m. to noon, Sept. 24, at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 6400 Perkins Road .

More than 800 people are expected for the event, which will include a 5K walk, food, vendors, massages, a band and other fun for the whole family, Clark-LeBeouf said.

Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. for the 9:30 a.m. walk. Proceeds raised from the event will help fund research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; deliver services in the community and provide information. Events on diabetes awareness and raising funds for diabetes don’t get as much attention as events targeting other diseases, Clark-LeBeouf said.

“The funny thing is diabetes affects far more people than any of those other diseases,” Clark-LeBeouf said.

American Diabetes Association statistics show that diabetes affects nearly 26 million people, and 7 million of them are unaware they have it. The group said the disease could affect as many as one in three Americans by 2050. The disease has been especially devastating to black people. It is the fifth leading cause of death in black people, and their death rates are 27 percent higher than those of white people. Nearly 3 million black people have diabetes, and 25 percent of black people 65 to 74 years old have diabetes.

Clark-LeBeouf said her grandparents and other relatives had the disease but not her parents. “I could see how it affected their lives,” she said.

Clark-LeBeouf said her Type 1 diabetes is not as easily controlled as Type 2.

“For a Type 2 person, if they just work out and eat right, they wouldn’t even have to take meds,” she said.

Clark-LeBeouf has a degree in biology and chemistry from Southern University and a master’s degree in public health from LSU Medical Center in New Orleans, but she doesn’t work in the medical field. That doesn’t stop the business analyst from urging people to take care of their health.

“What you do to your body now will definitely affect you later,” she said.

For more on “Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes,” call Sarah Antoon at (225) 216-3980.

Terry Robinson is a copy editor for The Advocate. He can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.