November is National Diabetes Awareness Month
By age eight, I was being trained to administer Grandmommy’s insulin shot on the days when my Granddaddy was on business travel. They told me she had “the sugar” aka diabetes, and since I watched this morning ritual of her testing her blood levels using a urine strip and taking insulin shots, I grew up thinking that this was a ‘normal’ part of life. I was coached using an orange from the kitchen fruit basket and learned to fill up a syringe with water, to aim for and inject the needle into one of those small dots on the piece of fruit. I was so not excited about the prospect of actually seeing Grandmommy’s ‘butt,’ let alone injecting her in it. I just thought it was gross.
Later in life, I learned that this was NOT “the sugar,” nor was it normal. Diabetes mellitus (DM) was a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how our bodies turn food into energy. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the U.S., diabetes is considered an epidemic, with an estimated 29 million Americans having some form of it. Even more alarming is that the average American has a one in three chance of developing diabetes symptoms in their lifetime. 
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and new research is connecting dementia and Alzheimer’s to type 3. Another type, gestational diabetes, happens in pregnancy.
Alarmingly, 86 million people have prediabetes, a condition defined as having blood glucose levels above normal but below the defined threshold of diabetes. It is considered to be an at-risk state, with high chances of developing diabetes.  About a third of people who have diabetes — approximately 8 million adults — have no idea they even have it.
These facts from the National Institutes of Health are startling:
- Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
- Diabetes is the No. 1 cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult blindness.
- In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled.
- Eventually, diabetes can affect nearly every system in the body, impacting your energy, digestion, weight, sleep, vision, and more.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney disease finds that the condition usually develops because of a combination of factors, including: 
- African Americans are at higher risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes
- Having a poor diet
- Being overweight
- Having high levels of inflammation
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Experiencing high amounts of stress
- Having a family history of diabetes (especially a parent or sibling)
- Being exposed to toxins, viruses or harmful chemicals
According to Dr. Josh Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist, “While there’s technically no known “cure” for diabetes, there are lifestyle changes that can help control diabetes symptoms and prevent diabetes complications.” 
Below are four small steps to put you on the path to greater wellness and vitality:
- Get Tested. Check with your doctor to make sure you aren’t one of the 8 million people who are unaware that they have prediabetes.
- Eat the rainbow. Worry less about the newest diet fad (i.e., keto, vegan, vegetarian) and add more organic fruits and veggies to your diet. Eating low-glycemic fruits (berries) and roots (sweet potatoes, squash) in the morning gives you the entire day to burn off the natural carbohydrates (sugars) they produce. Adding an excellent healthy fat (avocado) and protein (wild-caught fish) to your green, leafy veggies for lunch and dinner will help you stay full and stop you from craving starchy snacks at night.
- Exercise. Whether you prefer to walk, take Zumba or some form of HIIT (high-intensity interval training), get it in! You will feel so much better after a good sweat.
- Manage your stress. Stress kills. If you are in a relationship, job, or home environment that causes you to stress, take Jordan Peele’s advice and GET OUT! Seek support from those you trust.
I only wish my grandmother had been educated enough to make these small lifestyle changes because one night while visiting family friends, 12-year-old me, fell while attempting to bolt down the stairs to beat my sister to the car. While trying to break my fall, Grandmommy fell off the side of the steps, bruising the side of her ankle. What started as just a small bruise, that she “dressed” with salves and bandages, turned into a full-on medical emergency. Over the next few weeks, this bruise went from brown to red to black and full of puss. A few months later, due to her diabetes, Grandmommy had to amputate her leg from the knee down because gangrene began eating it away. She eventually got a poorly-designed prosthetic leg but chronically suffered from ‘phantom limb.’ (A vivid perception that a limb that has been removed or amputated is still present in the body and performing its normal functions.)  Two years later, she passed away after going into a diabetes-like coma while out running errands.
Watching Grandmommy suffer, coupled with my health challenges, inspired me to become a Certified Integrative Health Coach. I became passionate about educating, empowering, and inspiring black women to unapologetically transform into their most authentic and healthy selves by tapping into the Goddess within. I carry out this mission in my full-service, holistic life-coaching revolution called The Goddess Awakening & Healing Sanctuary, LLC, which focuses on nutrition, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness.
The bottom line is that we have more control over our health than we’ve ever realized. Type 2 diabetes is explicitly reversible, and overall our healthy choices moving forward can affect our grandchildren’s children. A positive mindset, good information, and, most of all, taking action will give you the longevity and vitality that you deserve.