(BPT) - S. Epatha Merkerson is well-known for her award-winning roles on the stage and screen. But what you may not know is that she is one of the 4.9 million African-American adults living with diabetes - that’s nearly 20 percent of the adult African-American population.
In 2003, after having her blood sugar tested at a health fair event and being advised to see her doctor, Merkerson got an important wake-up call - she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Despite having a family history of the disease, she was unaware she had the condition, and following her diagnosis, Merkerson got serious about her health. She worked with her doctor to learn her A1C (average blood sugar level over the past two to three months) and set a personal A1C goal, so she could help get her blood sugar under control.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that many people with diabetes have an A1C of less than 7 percent to help reduce the risk of complications, such as blindness, amputation, heart disease and stroke and nearly half of people with diabetes have an A1C greater than 7 percent. For certain individuals, a higher or lower A1C may be more appropriate, which is why it is important for people with diabetes to speak with their health care providers to discuss the A1C goal that is right for them.
Type 2 diabetes is a significant health concern in the African-American community. African Americans are more likely than other ethnic groups to be affected by type 2 diabetes and to experience serious long-term health problems over time from the disease. In fact, it is the fourth leading cause of death in the community.
Accept the challenge to get to your goals!
That’s why Merkerson is now teaming up with Merck on America’s Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals. As a part of this program, Merkerson is encouraging African Americans living with type 2 diabetes to join her in pledging to know their A1C and to talk to their doctors about setting and attaining their own A1C goal.
“I lost my father and grandmother to complications of diabetes,” says Merkerson, “So I learned firsthand how important it is to know your A1C and make a commitment to get to your goal. I’m excited to be working on this program to help other African Americans with the condition learn about proper blood sugar management and inspire them to achieve their own blood sugar goals.”
To help meet her personal A1C goal, Merkerson worked closely with her doctor to create an individualized diabetes treatment plan, including diet, exercise and medications that fit her specific needs. By sticking to this plan - and making changes with her doctor when necessary - Merkerson has kept her blood sugar under control. It’s important to keep in mind that because diabetes is a progressive disease, sometimes, despite one’s best efforts, their doctor may need to adjust their treatment plans over time to help them reach their blood sugar goals.
Most people with diabetes are aware of the importance of controlling high blood sugar, but it’s also important for patients to understand why blood sugar can sometimes go too low. For people on certain diabetes medications, low blood sugar can be caused by skipping meals or excessive exercise and can make you feel shaky, dizzy, sweaty or hungry, and sometimes, faint. If you have type 2 diabetes, make sure your doctor explains the signs and symptoms of high and low blood sugar to you and let him or her know if you are experiencing any of those symptoms.
Merkerson is urging fellow patients and their loved ones to visit www.AmericasDiabetesChallenge.com and join the America’s Diabetes Challenge Facebook community at Facebook.com/AmericasDiabetesChallenge where they can make their personal A1C pledge, learn more about her diabetes story, and find tips for better blood sugar management.
Key questions to ask your doctor
Achieving blood sugar control can be challenging, yet it is a crucial part of a diabetes management plan. People who join Merkerson in accepting America’s Diabetes Challenge can stay motivated and take an active role in controlling their blood sugar by asking a few key questions to guide their discussion with their doctor:
* What is my A1C and what should my goal be?
* How often should I test my blood sugar and what should my targets be?
* What are the possible side effects of the medication(s) I am taking?
* What are the signs and symptoms of high and low blood sugar?
* Do I need to make any changes to my overall diabetes management plan?