“What’s your type?” is such a loaded question. Some people might think it has to do with the qualities you are looking for in a partner. Others might think it’s in reference to blood type. For the purposes of this conversation, your “type” is all about blood sugar health. Growing up, I often heard about relatives and family friends who had “the sugar”. I was too young to question what exactly that meant, but you can imagine my surprise when I found out that was the household name for diabetes. Simply stated, diabetes is your body’s inability to regulate blood sugar levels, so the nickname actually makes perfect sense.
My first exposure to diabetes was through my maternal grandmother. She was diagnosed in her 30s, somewhere between child #7 and #8. I don’t remember every single detail of her diabetic journey, but there are quite a few recollections that stand out. No matter where she went, my grandmother always had butterscotch, peppermints, and a flask of orange juice. These were her mobile anecdotes in the event her “sugar went low”. She was insulin-dependent, so we all knew what it meant when any one of us was asked to get something for her out of the refrigerator. That’s where she kept her vials of insulin and her syringes. It’s clear that I paid a great deal of attention to detail, because I can vividly see her cleaning a small section of her belly with an alcohol swab, drawing up the insulin, and then injecting the medication into the lower quadrant of her abdomen. I wasn’t scared or bothered by what I saw. As far as I knew, this was a routine part of living with diabetes. During the course of her disease, she had one of her toes amputated, and was eventually placed on renal dialysis. It wasn’t until I started working in public health that I realized that my grandmother’s experience with the disease was not the only experience there is. Being diabetic doesn’t have to lead to neuropathy, visual impairment, kidney disease, or any other complications that can result from chronically elevated blood sugar levels. It’s possible to live, and live well, with diabetes.
Thus far, I have not had any issues with my blood sugar, but there are several risk factors that increase my chances of developing diabetes in the future: I’m a black woman; I’m almost 40; I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS); I have a strong family history; and, like 2/3 of the population, I’m overweight. Most of my risk factors are beyond my control. So, I focus my efforts on the things I can change. I try to eat a balanced diet, which means consuming more healthy foods, but not depriving myself of the not so healthy foods. I also make sure that I move as much as I can throughout the day, and I attempt to workout twice a week. Another piece is knowing my numbers. I have bloodwork drawn on an annual basis, and I pay special attention to my fasting glucose and my A1c. These two indicators help to determine how well I’m doing, or not doing in regards to my blood sugar health.
Whether you are not a diabetic, were born diabetic, acquired diabetes as a result of your lifestyle, or developed diabetes during your pregnancy, your “type” is important. If you want to know where you stand regarding your blood sugar health, schedule an appointment with your health care provider TODAY! If you are a health care provider interested in helping Black woman reduce their risk for diabetes or successfully manage their condition, please consider becoming a BGH partner: https://blackgirlhealth.com/partnerships/