A few years ago, I was working as a flight attendant and my days were spent flying all over the world. I was 26 years old and I thought I was healthy because I was doing what I could to stay fit. I incorporated healthy foods, like kale, into my diet whenever I could, and would exercise regularly throughout the week. I also love baking and would indulge from time to time. But, I didn’t know the whole story about my health, and I’ll never forget the moment when I did.
Before the end of the year, I went to the doctor and got a full physical. I didn’t think much of it until the nurse called me while I was waiting at the airport, right before Christmas. She said, “All of your tests were fine. The only thing the doctor wants to do is change your diabetes prescription.”
My jaw dropped. I asked, “What diabetes prescription?”
The doctor got on the phone and told me that my A1C levels were very high, and that for them to be that high meant that I’d had type 2 diabetes for a while. I had a panic attack when I realized what he was saying: I have type 2 diabetes.
My family has a history of type 1 diabetes, and my older brother, who passed away a few years ago from other health complications, took insulin and carefully watched what he ate every single day. Black adults are nearly twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes than adults from other communities. But I still never thought it could happen to me.
As I continued talking to my doctor in the coming weeks and days, I discovered that I did have symptoms of type 2 diabetes, but I’d ignored them for years. Every time I ate or drank a lot of sugar, I felt tired and ill, but I didn’t connect diabetes to how my body reacted to certain foods.
During the first few months after my diagnosis, I started being really careful about everything I ate. Being a flight attendant meant that I was often grabbing whatever I could for a quick meal in between flights, but I started paying attention to portions, and saying no to that extra caramel syrup with my coffee. I also began checking my blood sugar a few times a week and taking medication twice a day to keep my levels stable.
Thankfully, I can now say that my A1C levels are below the diagnosis level, and I’m even talking to my doctor about reducing my medication dosage. But if I could go back in time and avoid all of this, I certainly would. The good news is that we all have a chance to do just that by learning where we stand with prediabetes—a reversible condition that affects one in three (or 84 million) American adults.
People with prediabetes are on the path to developing type 2 diabetes, but you can change that by making healthier choices, like eating better and exercising regularly. If I knew that changing my habits and taking better care of myself would help me avoid the tests, medications and the fear of additional health risks I live with now, I would do everything I could to prevent it.
You can take the first step by heading to DoIHavePrediabetes.org and taking the one-minute prediabetes risk test to find out where you stand with prediabetes. More than 36 percent of black adults have prediabetes, and only 10 percent of those at risk know they have it.If someone is offering you the opportunity to take control of your health, take it. Don’t just say “it can’t be me.” I didn’t think it could happen to me, and it did.