“I started thinking about my family and the history of my family. I cannot be an older mother with all of those medical conditions if I can do something about it, not just for me but for my children,” said 62 years old, San Antonio resident, Shirley Wilkerson as she began to take steps in Diabetes prevention. Shirley is one of 100 million Americans who are prediabetic, according to 2017 report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control.
The American Diabetes Association defines Type II Diabetes as the inability of your body to use insulin properly (insulin resistance). This causes blood glucose levels to rise higher than normal (hyperglycemia). The primary cause of Type II Diabetes is obesity and lack of exercise. Type II Diabetics have a greater risk for kidney failure, blindness, stroke, heart disease and amputation of legs, feet, and toes.
Pre-diabetes is indicated by an elevated blood sugar level but not yet at the level of full diabetes. It is seen as a signal that a person is at a high risk of developing Type II Diabetes. 90% of people who are prediabetic are not aware of it and almost one-third of pre-diabetics will develop Type II Diabetes within five years.
San Antonio has one of the highest rates of Type II diabetes in the country and the number is growing. According to the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, 14.2% of Bexar County residents have been diagnosed with Diabetes, higher than the national or state average. 80% of Diabetics are overweight or obese.
“My parents knew about it but were in denial. If I know about it then I can know what to do, how to eat and how to exercise. You can make decisions on how to live,” Shirley says.
There are big disparities when looking at education, economics, and race. Those with higher incomes and higher education levels have decreased rates of diabetes. Blacks and Hispanics have higher diabetes rates than Whites. The City of San Antonio, with the support of local organizations and physicians, has focused education and resources on the areas of the city with the most need.
Shirley is a member of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio and attends weekly classes for exercise and to learn about her health. She credits the YMCA instructors for keeping her encouraged and wanting to do more. “Get up and move! Don’t allow yourself to sit around and deteriorate. By being healthy I am living my best life.”
Shirley is also a participant in the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. She attends weekly sessions to learn about health, exercise, and nutrition. She even received a free membership to the YMCA for the duration of the program. She has lost 32 pounds since March of this year and is continuing to work towards her goals. “The Diabetes Prevention class caused me to look at what I was doing and be accountable. I didn’t realize so much of what we eat affects our health.”
Shirley is now an advocate for her family and the community in Diabetes prevention and helping people to make healthier choices. “If you want to have a healthy life, you have to take care of yourself.”
If you or a loved one would like more information on Diabetes Prevention or the YMCA’s free Diabetes Prevention Program, you can visit www.diabeteshelpsa.com or call the Y Living Center at (210) 924-8858.
Julius Hunter is a personal trainer/group exercise instructor with the YMCA of Greater San Antonio and a doctoral student at Our Lady of the Lake University focusing on the intersection between leadership, health, and wellness, resilience, and grit. His personal story includes losing over 100 pounds through diet and exercise and he has a passion to see others live better and healthier lives. You can reach him via email at email@example.com and access more information about the services and programs of the YMCA at https://ymcasatx.org/programs/health-and-fitness