Thursday, February 9, 2012

BFly's Black Herstory Month: 'Sugar, Sugar'

What is SUGAR?  Well, it depends on who you ask and in what content it is used.
  1. SUGAR (as described by Wikipedia) ‘is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose,[1] characterized by a sweet flavor.’ 
  2. SUGAR is another word for kiss.  (example, ‘C’mere baby, give Grandma some sugar.’)
  3. SUGAR is used as a name/nickname.
  4. SUGAR is a word often used by African Americans to describe the deadly disease, Diabetes.
According to the African American Community Health Advisory Committee, diabetes is the fourth-leading cause of death by disease among African-Americans and is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and amputation. While diabetes affects nearly 3 million African- Americans — half of those with the disease don't know it. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Contrary to popular belief, diabetes is NOT caused by eating sweets or the wrong kinds of food. The exact cause of diabetes is unknown but, increasing age, genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.  Diabetes is a killing disease but it may be controlled, according to James R. Gavin III, MD, chair of the American Diabetes Association's African-American Program. "By keeping fit, eating right and getting regular exercise, we can decrease our risk for diabetes quite substantially," he said. "This is a disease about which we can do a great deal, but only when those affected are informed and empowered to take the kind of control of this disease that is now possible.”
On December 6, 2010, I was diagnosed with diabetes; that was a serious reality check.  I mean, of course I knew beforehand that my health was at risk due to my weight, poor eating habits & physical inactivity. I knew something was wrong within my body because I felt it. I was also aware of some of the symptoms for diabetes (which include: Frequent urination, Unusual thirst, Extreme hunger, Unusual weight loss. Extreme fatigue, Irritability, Frequent infections, Blurred vision, Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal, Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet, and Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections) and had been feeling a few of them. Still, when the words were spoken, I felt like I had been slapped in the face. ‘Ms. Tarver, your blood work shows that you have diabetes.’ Tears immediately stung my eyes. I shook my head in disbelief; not at the diagnosis but at myself for letting my health go to that degree.  Also, it hurt to get that kind of news on my damn birthday. What a way to start off my new year. ‘I knew it, I knew it,’ I said.  I told my doctor how I had been feeling ‘off’ lately and that I suspected my health was at risk.  ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘so I need you to get more blood work done and you really need to focus on losing weight and eating for your health. In the meantime, I am going to prescribe a medication to help you get your blood glucose levels under control.’ Wow,  I thought to myself, not only is my health compromised but I have to be on a daily medication? How the hell did I get here?! I was in a state of shock when I left the doctor’s office. I knew diabetes was a serious condition and I had to find a way get it under control…..or else.
As with a lot of African American families, diabetes is a part of my genetic history.  My paternal grandparents, my father and some of his siblings live with (or died from) from it and now, I have it. I decided, right then and there, to stop playing with my health and taking my life for granted. I researched more information about diabetes and discovered that it could affect the body in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications, such as hearing loss, dental problems, eye, foot and skin complications, high blood pressure and mental health issues (just to name a few). Upon learning this, other things that I had been feeling within my body began to make sense. I had to face some harsh realities; but, sadly, it didnt serve as the thing to push me towards a permanent lifestyle change. Its been over a year since my diagnosis and my health is pretty much in the same state, if not worse. I know and have heard about many people who have lost body parts, bodily functions and their lives due to non-treatment of their diabetes. Unfortunately, so many people choose to ignore the signs or medical advice. They neglect to take their medications, opt to continue eating poorly and they never make the time or effort to exercise. This is particularly sad because, although diabetes can be deadly, it can also be treated effectively and be reversed. By eating more healthy foods, exercising for at least 30 minutes per day and losing weight (sometimes just 10-15 lbs can do the trick), one can actually rid their body of the disease. So why havent I done that for myself thus far?  Hmmmmmmmmmm……….good question.