Many Philadelphians came together on a rainy Saturday morning for a worthwhile cause. It was a day that I’d be able to make a difference in my own life as well as the lives of others. It was a day I had been anticipating for weeks. The American Diabetes Association held its 2023 walk for a cure for Diabetes, an illness that affects countless Americans and people worldwide. It is primarily a genetic disease and its successful management can be attributed to healthy food, proper medicine, and exercise. Diabetes is directly related to poor diet and poverty which causes an increased reliance on unhealthy foods. Unhealthy food is generally easier and less expensive than the healthier alternative.
Diabetes affects every organ system in your body from your skin, nerves, and to your heart. There are two types of Diabetes- Juvenile onset or Type One and Type Two- Adult Onset Diabetes. Type One is much more difficult to manage. It’s like an autoimmune disorder where our bodies stop making insulin. Sufferers need to supplement with injectable insulin a few times a day. The injections are painful but life-saving.
With Type Two our bodies still make insulin but we can’t absorb it. Some type two sufferers do need to take injectable insulin daily, sometimes a few times a day but diet and exercise help immensely. Type 2 is easier to control with a healthy diet and exercise. Just because something is easier doesn’t make it easy or simple.
Diabetes runs in my family. My aunt and sister battle it. They too developed the disease. My mother died of complications from it. My mother lived on an island with not much access to healthy food which was too expensive and processed carbohydrates as well as natural starchy foods were her staples. Yes, she did have foods like fresh fish available and some vegetables like spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and eggplant but because of how we ate in my family, her condition was hard to control. She developed an ulcer on her foot from a wound that wouldn’t heal. She needed an amputation. The doctors thought the operation was successful. The night of the operation she developed Sepsis and died. She paid the ultimate price for the disease and died an early death at 55.
I live with a silent killer lurking inside my body every day, with every bite of food I put to my lips. It is relatively dormant and under control for me, but for others, it's a ferocious animal. It is only under control because of the choices I make daily. I take my medicine, try to eat healthy, and stay active and hydrated. These medicines I am prescribed are like stacking dominos next to each other and knocking them over. I started with one then years later five medications have been piled on just to keep me alive and all of my organs in proper working condition.
Metformin is usually the first-line medication for this condition. After that, there can be other medications added to help manage the condition like Jardiance, Januvia, and Trulicity as well as insulin. Ultimately the type of foods we eat and beverages we drink affect our health and directly tie into our success in controlling diabetes. Too many processed carbohydrates such as breads, muffins, cookies, candy, chips, crackers, fried foods, and added sugars can be detrimental just as too many high-sugar fruits, which are healthy but for someone with Diabetes, can be deadly.
When I got diagnosed I had to change much of what I ate to survive. I added more fresh, non-starchy vegetables and protein and reduced my sugar intake. I am not perfect all of the time. If I was better with my diet I would have better success with controlling my Diabetes. At that stage, some people can control this condition through proper diet and exercise alone. For the majority of sufferers, a realistic plan including diet, exercise, and medication is necessary.
If you have been diagnosed with Diabetes you are not alone in your struggle. Our condition is manageable with the right tools and lifestyle choices. If you know anyone with the disease please help support them in any way you can because living with this disorder is not easy. With your help and walking to raise money for research for better treatments, sufferers can live longer, healthier lives.