The cramp in my right ankle was so severe, so incredibly unbearable, I literally dragged my leg up the subway steps, over three city blocks across town and up a flight of stairs to a random doctor I’d found in one of those thick insurance books—a doctor I picked only because she was the closest I could find near my office at Parenting magazine and who would see me that day. I wanted drugs for the pain. She refused and instead gave me stretches for my ankle and a blood test that, a week later, revealed the shocking news: I had prediabetes.

I promise you, I died one thousand deaths hearing that diagnosis. Next to cancer, that disease was, perhaps, one of the most frightening I’d ever encountered. I had seen up close how it ravaged lives; my god sister, Sonya, was only eight years old when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and began submitting to a lifetime of insulin shots, bland, sugar-free diets, hospitalizations and, eventually, repeated hospitalizations and kidney failure brought on by sky-high blood glucose levels. After years of dialysis and even a kidney transplant, my god sister died. She was 32.

I wanted no part of the disease, and I made a desperate plea to my doctor to tell me what I needed to do to stop my prediabetes from becoming full-blown type 2 diabetes. She explained that diabetes is a disorder that disrupts the way your body moves glucose (sugar) from the blood into cells (where it can be used for energy), leading to higher-than-normal levels of sugar in your blood (hyperglycemia). It also affects the way your body stores and processes other forms of energy, such as fats.

All I heard was insulin needles.

And I wanted no part of those, I promise you that.

Doc told me the secret: eat better, get more exercise and, most importantly, stop stressing. I wanted to scream at her, “You don’t know my life!” But she did. She did. I was tired all the time, my energy was crap, the scale was showing numbers I’d never seen before and my pants—well, they were starting to scream, “Now you know you’re just one more pasta bowl from having to buy an entire new wardrobe.” And between my full-time job at Parenting, my side-gig writing books and freelancing for magazines and being a wife and mother of two small children, my stress levels were to the gills. I was miserable. And I was slowly, surely making myself sick.

When it comes to beating prediabetes, lifestyle changes are more powerful than medicine. Click To Tweet

Here’s the thing: if you’re diagnosed with prediabetes, you can make lifestyle and dietary changes to reverse the process. In fact, lifestyle changes are more powerful than medicine. Dig it: reducing your body weight by just five to seven percent and exercising for 30 minutes three to five times a week can reduce your risk by almost 60 percent.

My doctor didn’t have to tell me twice. I did exactly what she told me to do: I hit the gym and lost a gang of weight, I completely changed the way I ate by cutting out sugar and loading up on vegetables, fruits and lean meats, and, the most drastic move of all, I quit my job, moved south, and became a work-at-home mom to calm myself down a little. It worked; I completely reversed the prediabetes diagnosis and picked up some good habits and muscles (!) on the way.

Getting diabetes doesn't have to be a death sentence; here are concrete steps to taking control. Click To Tweet 

I won. But not everyone will. Some of us will develop type 2 diabetes and have to do much more to control the disorder. That diagnosis is not a death sentence, though. Well-controlled diabetes is vitally important and provider communication—much like that which I had with my doctor— plays a critical role. In a recent call, Dr. Timothy Reid, Medical Director of Mercy Diabetes Center in Janesville, WI, told me that patients help themselves tremendously when they go to their doctor’s appointment with two or three things to discuss, including experiences with medicines they’re using to regulate their diabetes. They also win when they focus on tackling one goal—will you focus on exercising? Your diet? Controlling your blood pressure?—rather than trying to tackle it all at once, becoming overwhelmed and giving up.

Another great way to take control of your diabetes is to build a diabetes treatment team: a doctor, a nurse and a diabetes educator. The three of them will get you on the good foot and headed toward healing. The American Association of Diabetes Educators website is a great place to locate a diabetes educator in your community to support your treatment.

Looking for trusted resources about type 2 diabetes? I’ve got you. Here’s what you can do to help yourself or someone you love who’s been diagnosed:

Dr. Reid assured me that following these steps after a prediabetes or type 2 diabetes diagnosis can lead to great health outcomes. In fact, he said, “you’ll die an old lady with both shoes on.”

I’m here for that.

Listen: I know that our community is especially affected by diabetes, and while the medical establishment knows plenty about how it affects us, it can still use our help to learn more. For my sake. For the sake of my daddy and my daughters’ father and grandfather, all of whom have diabetes. For the sake of my kids, whose family has a serious health history of the disease.

Do me this solid: take this survey to help diabetes research. It’ll take less than 10 minutes and, if you complete it, you’ll be entered to win one of three $100 VISA gift cards.

No personal information will be kept, sold, or stored in the survey-completion process. Once the survey is completed, send an email to: surveyondiabetes@gmail.com and note that you completed the survey; they won’t store, save, or sell your email address for this either; it’s strictly to notify you if you won the giveaway.

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So you know: I was compensated by Med-IQ through a grant from Sanofi US to write about type 2 diabetes. All opinions are my own. These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

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