Learning to Live with Type 2 Diabetes
About three years ago, Selenia Robinson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The diagnosis came as a surprise for Selenia who has been active her whole life. However, Selenia realized that being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes meant it was time for her to make some lifestyle changes, including moving more and eating healthier to manage her condition.
Selenia is just one of approximately 12.6 million—or 10.8%—of all women age 20 and over who have diabetes. Inkster residents in particular have a high prevalence of diabetes, affecting over 12% of African American women in the city. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, and when not managed properly, can cause kidney disease, blindness, heart attack, stroke, and other health complications. The good news is that many of these complications can be avoided by properly managing diabetes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Selenia took her diagnosis very seriously. She joined a diabetes support group, began exercising more, and joined classes and programs focused on diabetes management and nutrition.
“I wanted to get myself educated about what diabetes is all about, which I did not know at the time of my diagnosis,” Selenia says. “I went to nutrition classes and started exercising more.”
One notable lifestyle change that Selenia made was including more physical activity into her daily routine. Adults should aim to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, five days a week. You can also try swimming, water aerobics, biking, dancing, or any activity that keeps you moving toward your goal.
“I do a lot of walking and a lot of movement,” explains Selenia.
In addition to walking, Selenia attends Enhance Fitness classes 2-3 times a week in Inkster. Enhance Fitness is a physical activity program offered by the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM) throughout southeast Michigan. Aimed primarily at adults, it is designed to improve functional fitness and well being. Having been a participant of Enhance Fitness for three years, Selenia says that the class has taught her a lot about how to incorporate physical activity in different ways.
“I’ve learned about how the movement of the body and muscles can help at my age,” says Selenia. “I have also learned about increasing your heart rate and doing activities with your arms and legs. I like doing that, plus I like the atmosphere with the instructors and other participants. It’s a fun way to get physical activity plus help your body.”
But getting regular physical activity is just one component of diabetes management. Selenia explains that medication is also essential in caring for her health. It’s important for individuals with diabetes to see a doctor regularly and take all prescribed medications—diabetes is largely self-managed where patients are responsible for 99% of their care.
“My doctor discussed the numbers I need to know to control my diabetes,” says Selenia. “Medication is important. I prick my finger in the morning to monitor what I call my ‘blood count,’ which has been good.”
Another component of diabetes management is making healthy food choices. Selenia says that one of the biggest lifestyle changes she had to make was learning about healthy foods and how to make healthy choices at each meal and snack.
“I carefully watch what I eat, and I eat very well,” says Selenia. “A nutritionist taught me about portions and sizes, and on what to eat to help manage diabetes.”
By controlling her diabetes in many ways, Selenia helps to set an example for the community. But in addition to helping herself, Selenia says that educating the community is necessary. Through programs and classes, she volunteers in the Inkster community in many ways to ensure that her voice is heard.
“I think it’s important to educate everyone on healthy living and healthy lifestyles,” explains Selenia.
Managing diabetes is hard, but Selenia shows that by getting educated and making healthy lifestyle choices, you can control your health.
“I would suggest that everyone talk to a nutritionist because we have a tendency to eat the wrong thing, or eat too much,” says Selenia. “If we can learn how to eat right, and start walking or exercising more, that would help.”
Managing diabetes can be hard, but it’s worth it. By learning about diabetes, knowing your numbers, getting routine care, and making healthy lifestyle choices, you can lower your risk of possible complications. For resources about diabetes management and prevention, check out the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) at www.YourDiabetesInfo.org.