In all of my twenty-six years on earth, I just started eating avocados in 2018! So by no means will this blog be “healthier than thou.” A few months ago, I went to my primary care doctor for some routine testing and a physical exam. Since I have been working full-time on diabetes prevention, I am learning all of the nuances that people outside of the healthcare community may not be privy to– like what prediabetes is, or how a simple blood glucose test can determine if you have it or not.
Prior to my last visit, I would only ask about my blood pressure because my mother had high blood pressure and I know that my family history increases my risk for developing hypertension – in addition to being a Black woman– which increases my risk even more. But, for this particular visit, I wrote a note to my doctor while making my appointment that I would like a blood glucose test to see if I had prediabetes. My results came back and luckily I was not in the range of prediabetes but unfortunately my cholesterol was high – but not high enough to be diagnosed.
I was shocked to say the least! When my doctor told me that I have to get my numbers down to avoid medication, I immediately thought to myself “there’s no way I should be 26 years old and taking cholesterol medicine, NO WAY!” I told my doctor “I refuse to be 26 and on Statin, so I’ll be back in a few months with lower numbers.”
If you did not know, high cholesterol is linked to type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. I may not have the numbers to have prediabetes but my cholesterol levels alone put me at greater risk for type 2 diabetes. I take full accountability for what could have caused my numbers to rise, after all, I assumed this sense of invincibility because for the most part I eat healthy meals and get some form of physical activity each week whether it’s walking in place to get my heart rate up, stretching my muscles in between commercials or dancing to music. What I didn’t realize was that all the cookies, crackers, red meats, and dairy products would soon catch up to me even after incorporating more vegetables and fruits into my meals and baking my foods instead of frying them.
When I told my ‘work mom/mentor’ Angela (sidenote: My mother’s name was Angela too), who also works on diabetes prevention about my results, she asked “so, what are you going to do differently?” and I immediately told her “well I’m not going to the gym that’s for sure!” We both laughed. I decided that instead of making drastic changes, I would start with some small ones. Here’s a list of things I am currently doing or have done to have a healthier lifestyle.
- No longer using cream in my coffee just honey or a little sugar
- Parking further from locations to walk farther/longer
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Incorporating more salads and vegetables into meals
- Listening to meditation music to help with stress or journaling my thoughts
- Ordering healthier food items at restaurants
- Limiting fried foods
- Participating in local walking events such as 5k’s etc.
- Using the lunch hour to take walks
- Drinking more water every day
Trust me when I say that I still have challenges on this journey of living a healthier lifestyle. Since I’ve cut out red meats from my diet, I often get tired of eating chicken, turkey, tilapia, and salmon. As someone with a shellfish allergy, I don’t have the luxury of incorporating other types of seafood into my diet like shrimp and crab.
There are common challenges we all face during the process of trying to eat healthier and be more physically active. Things like busy schedules, travel for leisure or business, caretaker responsibilities, work, and being social are some of our go-to excuses -well mine at least- when I think about what I need to be doing to live a healthier life.
I am encouraging everyone especially my fellow 20-somethings to begin making healthier lifestyle changes that will positively impact your health now and in the future. Having support while making these changes is imperative and having the tools and resources to do so will be even more empowering.
You have the right to live a healthier life and programs like Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life. (CYL2) can be your invaluable resource to do so!
Zsanai Epps, MPH, CHES joined the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) as the Program Coordinator for Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life. (CYL² ) in November 2017. Zsanai assists in the management of CYL²’s strategic direction and guiding the program toward increasing the availability of CYL² in underserved communities, enrolling and sustaining participants in the program, increasing clinician screening, detection and referral of prediabetes, and helping to build the capacity of our program partners to sustain the program.