Earlier in my career as an intern at Med-Surg unit in small town Virginia,USA. I witnessed the restricted lifestyle of my patients who lived with Diabetes. Besides tiresome frequent visits to the hospital, my patients would at time leave the hospital with less limbs than they came in with. As the caregiver for diabetes patients, I was familiar with the devastating statistics that; there are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes. This total is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040. IDF estimates that 1 in 7 births is affected by gestational diabetes and that 20.9 million or 16.2% of live births to women in 2015 had some form of hyperglycemia in pregnancy ( International Diabetes Federation.)
I was approximately 32 weeks pregnant with my first child when the statistics I had known on top of head became a shocking reality. I woke up one morning feeling lethargic, with the worst case of fluid retention and swelling. The unspeakable amount of pain my body felt that morning prompted my visit to the doctor a week earlier than my regular routine check up.
When the doctor found protein traces in my urine, he predicted that I might have preeclampsia, however, my blood pressure wouldn’t support his theory. He then decided to check my blood sugar which he realised was absolutely higher than normal. Farther testing confirmed that I had Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.
I was struck by emotions. I learned that Gestational diabetes is due to insulin blocking hormones produced during pregnancy, and that this type of diabetes is only suffered by pregnant women. Overwhelmed by my new medical condition, I learned that my diabetes disarmed my womb from containing my baby any longer. Two days after my diagnosis, my baby was born prematurely, at 33 weeks. Fortunately, I had a successful delivery.
Research from IDF confirmed that half women who experience Gestational Diabetes Mellitus during pregnancy go on to develop type 2 Diabetes within five to ten years. Having seen my grandparents go through Diabetes I normally wouldn’t have been surprised by the likeliness that I would suffer from this horrifying disease. However, here I was at 29, raising my beautiful daughter and being told that I had a high chance of developing type 2 Diabetes later in life.
This news did not settle well with me, I thought to myself,
“How can I fix this”
According to Data from the Nurses’ Health Study, Diabetes type 1 is usually acquired from childhood, whereas type 2 also called adult onset diabetes can be delayed and avoided through lifestyle changes. 90% of type 2 diabetes in women can be attributed to five such factors: excess weight, lack of exercise, a less-than-healthy diet, smoking, and abstaining from alcohol.
To fix this, I decided to embark on a healthy lifestyle. When my baby was a year old, I adopted three tips that would ensure the health of my body.
First, I signed up for a gym membership and paid for six months straight. While I had signed up for the gym many a times before and with fail, this time I was determined to motivated by fear of a disease so I did stick to my schedule of three times a week. Great thing was my gym had group classes from aerobics, Zumba, cardio and weight lifting. Not only did the group dynamics keep me motivated, the compliments that followed a few months later about shedding the baby weight and the confident boost made me stick to this sure routine. Due to my busy schedule, I now exercise twice a week at the convenience of my house. Thanks to YouTube, there are many workout routines for every shape, form and mood. Besides, running after my now two-year-old girl keeps me on my toes.
Second, healthy eating bit.ly/2yr34LM became a reality. I would usually eat out at least three times a week and daily for lunch before and during my pregnancy. Not only was my wallet taking a punch, my health too was going down the drain due to my very unhealthy eating habits. I am talking milkshakes, burgers, pizza, fries, fizzy drinks and the whole shebang! Once I got the diagnosis and the baby shortly after, I had to do a quick flip on my eating script and this involved giving up my fatty comfort foods. I started with the green leafy veggies, whole grains, protein and good fats ala avocados in my diet. I rediscovered my love for the culinary arts and how good of a cook I had always been. Besides, who doesn’t love a tasty home-made meal? It was an instant switch but I believe the baby kept me on my diet strictly and by the time I was weaning her, I was also weaned off alcohol completely and kept it to the occasional takeout and a little glass of wine or two here and there.
Lastly, I started getting some good rest and enough sleep at night. I maintain routine check-ups at least every couple months. I also invested in a glucometer machine that is tucked in my first aid box if need be.
Taking control did of my life gave me a piece of mind about my health and my focus shifted from trying to prevent diabetes to living a healthy lifestyle overall. I do hope that by keeping up with my new healthy regimen, I will totally avoid the disease and live a long healthy diabetes free life.
Here are more stats on women and diabetes from the International Diabetes Federation:
- Remember that Up to 70% of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
- 70% of premature deaths among adults are largely due to behavior initiated during adolescence.
- Women, as mothers, have a huge influence over the long-term health status of their children.
- Research has shown that when mothers are granted greater control over resources, they allocate more to food, children’s health and nutrition, and education.
- Women are the gatekeepers of household nutrition and lifestyle habits and therefore have the potential to drive prevention from the household and beyond.
Check out Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre for people with diabetes, their caregivers, healthcare providers, the general public and other stakeholders involved in diabetes.