What is type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects your body’s use of glucose (a type of sugar you make from the carbohydrates you eat). Glucose is the fuel your cells need to do their work. You need glucose for energy. You also need insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps glucose enter your cells so that it can be converted to energy.
Here’s the problem: People with type 2 diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus) can’t properly use or store glucose, either because their cells resist it or, in some cases, they don’t make enough. Over time, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, which can lead to serious health complications unless people take steps to manage their blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes affects more than 29 million Americans, including nearly eight million who don’t even know they have it. You may be at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if it runs in your family, if you are of a certain age or ethnicity, or if you are inactive or overweight.
Type 2 diabetes vs. type 1 diabetes
What’s the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body does not produce insulin. The immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes need life-long insulin therapy.
Type 2 diabetes is much more common. In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t use insulin properly or, in some cases, doesn’t make enough. It’s usually diagnosed in middle-aged or older adults, but anyone can develop type 2 diabetes. It can be managed through diet, exercise, and medication.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin as it should or when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin to ferry glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells. Instead, the glucose builds up in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar.
When your body can’t use insulin properly, it’s called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is responsible for most cases of type 2 diabetes. Scientists don’t know why cells in the body become resistant to insulin, but it’s clear that certain genetic and lifestyle factors play a role. Here are the most common:
- Your genes. Type 2 diabetes tends to run in families. Scientists haven’t pinpointed the gene or genes responsible for insulin resistance. But even if you inherit certain genes that amp up your risk, it doesn’t mean you will go on to develop type 2 diabetes. How you live your life also affects your risk.
- Your race. Certain racial groups, especially African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than white people.
- Your lifestyle. There’s nothing you can do about the genes you inherit. But you can control how you live. Being overweight is the main risk factor for developing insulin resistance, especially if you carry that extra weight around your waist. Being sedentary, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and consuming a high-fat, low-fiber, sugar-laden diet can all increase your type 2 diabetes risk. You can reduce your risk by adopting healthier habits.
- Your existing health concerns. Other medical issues that can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes include:
- Having prediabetes. Prediabetes means having higher-than-normal blood glucose levels but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes who don’t control their blood sugar can go on to develop type 2 diabetes.
- Having gestational diabetes. Women who have gestational diabetes have elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancyand are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on. Moms should be tested six to 12 weeks after giving birth to screen for the condition.
- Having another condition linked to type 2 diabetes. Polycystic ovary syndrome, for example, affects women’s sex hormones and is associated with an elevated diabetes risk, as is a history of heart disease or stroke.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms
Type 2 diabetes can sneak up on you. Many people don’t know they have it because symptoms usually develop slowly over time. But there are several signs of type 2 diabetes to watch for. Early indicators include increased urination, thirst, and hunger. Over time, excess sugar in the bloodstream can lead to other symptoms, including slow-to-heal wounds and frequent infections. If you develop any of these symptoms of type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor.
- Excessive urination. Running to the bathroom more often than usual or producing more urine than normal (including at night) can be one of the first signs of type 2 diabetes. Excessive urination, also called polyuria, occurs when blood sugar levels are too high. The kidneys have to work overtime to filter the excess sugar out of your blood, and some of it gets flushed out of the body in your urine.
- Increased thirst. Excessive thirst, also called polydipsia, is another classic sign of type 2 diabetes. When your blood glucose is higher than normal, excess sugar spills into your urine, pulling water with it, and you have to urinate more frequently. You can become dehydrated from all that extra urination, so you then become thirsty, leading you to drink even more–and urinate more.
- Increased hunger. When you are insulin resistant or don’t make enough insulin, glucose can’t enter your cells. Starved for energy, you get hungrier than usual. Excessive hunger or increased appetite is also known as polyphagia.
- Blurred vision. High blood sugar can cause the lens of the eye to swell, causing blurry vision. If your blood sugar levels fluctuate, you may notice at least a temporary improvement when sugar levels are closer to normal.
- Unexplained weight loss. Sudden or unplanned weight loss can be a sign that your cells aren’t getting glucose for energy. Without that sugar for fuel, your body begins burning fat and muscle instead, leading to weight loss.
- Fatigue. When blood sugar is elevated, that fuel can’t get to its destination. As a result, your energy lags, and you feel depleted. You may not be sleeping well, either, if you make frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom to empty your bladder.
- Frequent infections. Yeast and bacteria thrive on sugar, so when blood glucose levels are abnormally high, there’s a greater risk for frequent or more severe yeast or urinary tract infections.
- Slow-healing wounds. People with type 2 diabetes may find that it takes a long time for skin injuries to heal. That’s because sugary blood is thicker and moves more slowly, especially through narrow blood vessels, meaning healing blood and oxygen takes longer to reach damaged tissue. Having open sores and wounds also boosts the risk for infections.
- Dry, itchy skin. Everyone gets dry skin, but itchy feet, ankles, or legs could be signs of type 2 diabetes if you have other symptoms too. Fluid loss due to frequent urination plus poor circulation and nerve damage due to thick, sugary blood can dry out your skin, especially on your lower extremities.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
Several tests may be used for diagnosing diabetes. A simple blood test known as a hemoglobin A1C (or glycated hemoglobin test) measures average blood glucose levels over the past three months. (Why three months? Because glucose attaches to a protein called hemoglobin in red blood cells, and those cells get recycled and replenished about every three months.)
A normal A1C is below 5.7%. A higher percentage reflects higher blood glucose levels. Prediabetes is defined as a reading of 5.7 to 6.4, while diabetes is diagnosed when glucose levels reach 6.5% or higher.
A fasting plasma glucose test measures blood glucose at a single point in time. Generally, this test is performed first thing in the morning before breakfast, after at least eight hours of fasting. A normal reading is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). A reading of 100 to 125 mg/dl signals prediabetes, and a reading of 126 mg/dl or higher indicates diabetes.
An oral glucose tolerance test measures your body’s ability to handle glucose. It is mostly used to diagnose gestational diabetes. First, blood is drawn after an overnight fast. Then you drink a special glucose solution, and your blood is drawn again two hours later. A normal reading at that time is 139 mg/dl or below. A reading of 140 to 199 mg/dl indicates prediabetes, while diabetes is diagnosed at 200 mg/dl or above.
A random or casual plasma glucose test may be performed any time you have diabetes symptoms. It doesn’t require fasting. A reading of 200 mg/dl or above suggests diabetes.
These tests cannot distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Generally, people with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed as children, teens, or young adults, while type 2 diabetes usually occurs in adults 45 and older. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, so an autoantibody test may be done to help a doctor determine if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes treatment
Type 2 diabetes is treated through diet, exercise, and medication. The goal of treatment is to keep blood sugar under control and stave off diabetes complications.
Some people manage through diet and exercise alone. Others need oral medicines, insulin, other injectable medications, or some combination of type 2 diabetes med–along with healthy food and fitness–to keep blood sugar in check.
There are lots of treatment options. What your doctor prescribes may depend on what other health conditions you have and how well certain medications work for you.
Diabetes treatment includes:
- Metformin. This oral medication comes as a pill or liquid. It’s often the first medicine that people with type 2 diabetes take. Metformin improves your body’s use of insulin and reduces the amount of glucose your liver makes.
- Sulfonylureas. These pills stimulate the release of insulin by the pancreas and help the body use insulin better. Popular sulfonylureas include glimepiride (Amaryl), glipizide (Glucotrol), and glyburide (DiaBeta, Micronase, and Glynase).
- Meglitinides. Much like sulfonylureas, this class of medicines boosts insulin production in the body. These oral meds, including repaglinide (Prandin) and nateglinide (Starlix), are fast acting and don’t stay in the body for long, so they must be taken just before meals.
- Thiazolidinediones. Also known as TZDs or glitazones, these oral medications work by lowering insulin resistance. This class includes pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia).
- Gliptins or DPP-4 inhibitors. This class of drugs improves the release of insulin in the body. One example is sitagliptin (Januvia).
- SGLT2 inhibitors. These oral medicines help your kidneys remove sugar from the body through urine. The class includes canagliflozin (Invokana), dapagliflozin (Farxiga), and empagliflozin (Jardiance).
- GLP-1 receptor agonists. Injectable drugs like exenatide (Byetta), liraglutide (Victoza), and dulaglutide (Trulicity) control blood sugar by slowing digestion, improving how insulin works in the body, and preventing the liver from releasing too much sugar into the bloodstream.
- Insulin therapy. There are many different types of insulin. They vary by how soon they start to work, when they peak, and how long they last. Insulin comes in different strengths and has multiple delivery methods–needle, pen, pump, port, jet injector, and inhaler.
- Bariatric surgery. Research suggests that weight-loss surgery can improve blood sugar control in some obese people with type 2 diabetes. Some people may no longer need diabetes medication after bariatric surgery, but these results tend to vary patient to patient.
Can type 2 diabetes be cured or reversed?
No treatments can cure diabetes. But this chronic condition can be controlled, and sometimes symptoms even disappear for periods of time.
Remember, type 2 diabetes develops gradually as the cells in the body resist insulin or the pancreas fails to make enough of it. For a while, there’s enough insulin to get by. But, in time, the body can no longer convert glucose into energy, causing blood sugar levels to spike.
Type 2 diabetes treatments don’t fix this problem. There’s no type 2 diabetes cure. But medications can help people normalize their blood sugar, and gaining control over your blood sugar is crucial for preventing or reducing complications.
Left untreated, type 2 diabetes can wreak havoc, damaging the heart, blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, brain, eyes, feet, and skin. It increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. It can lead to kidney failure. People with type 2 diabetes can lose their vision. In some severe cases, people with type 2 diabetes need a foot or a leg amputated. The risk of these and other complications is why it is so important to keep your blood sugar under control.
Type 2 diabetes diet
A healthy diet can help people with type 2 diabetes shed excess weight and manage blood sugar. While there’s no one-size-fits-all meal plan for controlling type 2 diabetes, watching what and how much you eat can go a long way.
One option for your type 2 diabetes diet is to adopt a plant-based Mediterranean-style of eating, incorporating healthy oils, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans.
Or “Create Your Plate” with the help of an online tool by the American Diabetes Association. Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with protein and one quarter with grains or other starchy foods. Add a serving of fruit, dairy, or both, and use healthy fats in small amounts. Round out your meal with water or a low-calorie drink like unsweetened coffee or tea.
Some people learn to count carbohydrates, since carbs affect blood sugar more than protein and fat. Keeping track of daily carb consumption can help keep blood sugar levels within a normal range. A dietitian or diabetes counselor can help you learn to track grams of carbohydrate in the foods you eat.
Type 2 diabetes prevention
To prevent type 2 diabetes, take a close look at your health habits. There’s a lot you can do to lower your risk, and even modest changes can help.
- Eat healthy. To prevent weight gain–a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes–eat more fruits and vegetables, cut back on sugary drinks and desserts, and watch your portion sizes.
- Lose weight. If you’re overweight, dropping just 5% to 7% of your weight (that’s 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person), and keeping that weight off, can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
- Get physical. The American Diabetes Association recommends a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, like brisk walking, swimming, cycling, or tennis, at least five days a week. Strength-training exercises build muscle mass, which helps you burn more calories, even when you’re at rest, so you can keep those pounds off.
Celebrities with type 2 diabetes
Actors, athletes, and musicians aren’t immune to type 2 diabetes. While some famous folks with diabetes say the diagnosis came as a surprise, others were aware of risk factors they faced, like a family history of the disease. After making healthy changes, many chose to speak out about the dangers of type 2.
Actor Tom Hanks announced his type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2013, revealing that his blood sugar levels had been high for years before he was diagnosed. It’s possible that his yo-yo dieting for roles–he gained 30 pounds to play Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own and later shed 50 to play Chuck Noland in Cast Away–could have increased his risk of blood sugar problems.
Celebrity chef Paula Deen, famous for dishes loaded with fat and calories, confirmed she had type 2 diabetes in 2012. A buttery diet alone will not necessarily cause diabetes, however; Deen spoke out about other risk factors that can play a role in the disease, like age, genes, and stress.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007. After years of battling with her weight, she used the diagnosis as motivation to lose 35 pounds. Music producer Randy Jackson also lost weight after a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. With gastric bypass surgery, he shed almost 100 pounds and got his blood sugar under control.
Other notable stars with type 2 diabetes include self-proclaimed “divabetic” Patti Labelle, who was diagnosed after passing out on stage in 1994; actor Paul Sorvino, who experienced fatigue and increased thirst for months before he was diagnosed; and Dick Clark, who became a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators 10 years after he himself was diagnosed.
This story was written for Health.com. To access the original story, click here.
3 Breast Cancer Survivors: Stories on Faith, Hope and Purpose
by Vanessa Cunningham for HuffingtonPost.com
In life you may come across a strong, bold, beautiful and courageous woman. One who inspires, motivates and has a zeal for life. These three extraordinary women are inspiring to me, women in general and to breast cancer patients/survivors. In the midst of their darkest hours, these women decided to opt for a fighter mentality instead of a defeated one. To them, life was worth fighting for, as it’s a precious gift from God. Each survivor will share their story, key survival mechanisms, what they are up to in the world today, and will end with some words of encouragement. Meet Bershan Shaw, Robin Devonish Scott and Taneeka Brown.
In 2007 at just 33 years old, Bershan’s dreams were abruptly eclipsed by the cold, hard reality of 1.2 cm tumors, endless visits to oncologists and having to face her own mortality at a young age. Bershan decided to face her illness head on, with a positive spirit, and with support from her family and her husband. To protect herself from infertility, she opted for radiation treatment instead of chemotherapy. All was well for a short while, but two years the cancer returned. Two weeks before her wedding, her doctors gave the bleak diagnosis: stage four breast cancer with six to nine months left to live. It appeared her fight was over.
The warrior in Bershan had been tested many times in her 33 years. But when she was told her cancer was unbeatable, and it was time to set her affairs in order, the warrior inside her rose up to meet the impossible with a spirit of hopeful defiance. Bershan leveled a steady gaze at her team of grieving oncologists and replied, “This is not my life. I will not die, because I was meant for more.” True to her word, Bershan has done much more. Rather than living in the shadow of a stage four cancer diagnoses, Bershan chose to work tirelessly on her mental, physical and spiritual health. Seven years later, she is cancer-free (no evidence of disease).
3 Survival Mechanisms:
Prayer. “God is my all in all. I got on my knees and prayed if God keeps me alive then he could use me as a vessel to help millions.”
Positive affirmations. “I say positive affirmations everyday nine times a day because it sticks in your head. Endless good comes to me in endless ways.”
Eating healthy and exercising. “You have to eat healthy and take control of your mind and body. I changed my thoughts and attitude, which changed my life. Change your diet and make changes for the better because your body is your temple.”
Her life today:
Bershan is a life coach, author and motivational speaker. Determined to be a blessing to others, she started a unique social network support site, URAWarrior.com. The site offers those struggling with life altering issues a safe, supportive place where they can find connection, comfort, inspiration, and above all, hope for a brighter tomorrow.Bershan is also the author of URAWARRIOR 365 Ways to Challenge You to a Better Life.
Words of encouragement:
Embrace your warrior spirit and “step into your greatness” and turn your pain into your purpose. Live life with no regrets because when you’re done, you’re done.
Robin Devonish Scott
One day Robin felt a lump in her breast and arm pit, but she just associated with her menstrual cycle. After a series of examinations, Robin was diagnosed with stage IIB cancer in 2009. After hearing these three words from her doctor “you have cancer,” Robin immediately started to cry uncontrollably as her husband Rory comforted her. Robin went through chemotherapy for six months, and radiation for seven weeks. During the times she experienced physical weakness, and the loss of her hair, she realized her circumstance changed her views and thoughts on life (for the better of course). She began to experience life through a different lens, becoming more empathetic and more spiritually in tune. The support of her friends, husband and church family kept her going during this difficult time.
Most importantly, she learned the importance of being humble. She stated, “Cancer has a funny way of stripping and humbling you in ways not otherwise imagined.” She has been breast cancer free since her initial diagnosis in 2009.
3 Survival Mechanisms:
Focus on what’s important. A lot of what we think and do is really not as important as living a life of purpose that is designed by God.
Learn to let things and people go. Learn to release the hurt and the people that have hurt you. Most people don’t know they have hurt you so just let go, heal from it and move on.
Prayer. Prayer is talking; prayer is purging; prayer is cleansing; prayer allows you to forgive; prayer allows you to obtain mercy; prayer is surrender; prayer is rejoicing; prayer is crying; but most of all, prayer is so necessary.
Her life today:
Robin is a coach and the Self Publishing Maven who helps her clients share and publish their stories. She also has a book “The Gift of Cancer“ scheduled to be released on December 8, 2004. She hopes to leave a legacy of books and information for people to glean from, for decades to come.
Words of encouragement:
There is nothing like the possibility of death to make you know what you want to do in life. Don’t wait until death is knocking to choose life. Choose it now and make the decision to live, in passion, on purpose and with a sense of urgency.
In April 2007 she felt a lump in her right breast. At the time she was in between jobs, experienced an insurance lapse, and didn’t know when the next one would begin. This was a terrifying time for her. Soon after she landed a temp job, and within 3-4 weeks her employer offered her a permanent position with insurance. Although she was afraid to get a mammogram, she kept a positive mindset and went anyway. After her examination, her doctor told her that she had stage 2 breast cancer. All she could ask her doctor at that point was, “Am I going to live?” and “What do I tell my kids?” After her appointment she remembers driving to her kid’s school to pick them up and thinking she couldn’t look at them, because she knew what they were about to face.
Long story short, the cancer over seven years advanced to stage 4 and has metastasized to her brain, lungs, kidney, liver, back, neck, and chest wall. She’s had multiple surgeries bi-lateral mastectomy, 10-hour breast reconstruction, hysterectomy, and a brain tumor removal. She endured three bouts of radiation, one to the brain, breast, and chest wall. To her friends and family Taneeka is considered a true survivor, although her cancer isn’t completely gone. She has been an inspiration to many as she has fought tenaciously for her life. There were times when the results looked grimed, but she fought to stay alive to raise her three children. To this day, doctors are shocked she is still alive.
3 Survival Mechanisms:
Prayer. Taneeka attributes her presence on earth today by the doing of God. She prays, reads the bible and attends church.
Speaking. She speaks at various breast cancer events sharing her story and testimony with breast cancer patients, which is therapeutic for her.
Creative outlets. Taneeka has always been a creative. She decided to start her own jewelry and shoes line.
Her life today:
Taneeka, along with her son John Cunningham Jr., started a non-profit called All So Pink, where breast cancer patients can craft and sell their creations. She is also a great mom and role model to her three children. They live in Orlando, Florida.
Words of encouragement:
Put your faith in God! He made a miracle out of my circumstance and can do the same for you.
I was moved to showcase these women in hopes that women would draw strength, courage, and hope from these stories. And to keep in mind that when your circumstance looks grim, keep a positive mindset, embrace the love and support from friends and family, and allow your faith to carry you through.
Please show your love and support for these women by commenting below.
Vanessa Cunningham is a Huffington Post contributor, nutrition & wellness expert of Unhealthy No More, Inc., best selling author, writer and speaker. She helps busy professionals reduce stress, banish unhealthy cravings, lose weight and increase their energy levels. She has also been featured on CNN iReport, Black Enterprise, Essence, MommyNoire, Everything Girls Love and MindBodyGreen. Head on over to her website to get your FREE gift “10 Ways to Live a Happy and Healthy Life.”
What It’s Like to Have ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety
By Sarah Schuster for TheMighty.com
High-functioning anxiety looks like…
Achievement. Busyness. Perfectionism.
When it sneaks out, it transforms into nervous habits. Nail biting. Foot tapping. Running my fingers through my hair.
If you look close enough, you can see it in unanswered text messages. Flakiness. Nervous laughter. The panic that flashes through my eyes when a plan changes. When anything changes.
High-functioning anxiety feels like…
A snake slithering up my back, clamping its jaws shut where my shoulders meet my neck. Punch-in-the-gut stomach aches, like my body is confusing answering an email with being attacked by a lion.
High-functioning anxiety sounds like…
You’re not good enough. You’re a bad friend. You’re not good at your job. You’re wasting time. You’re a waste of time. Your boyfriend doesn’t love you. You’re so needy. What are you doing with yourself? Why would you say that? What if they hate it? Why can’t you have your shit together? You’re going to get anxious and because you’re going to get anxious, you’re going to mess everything up. You’re a fraud. Just good at faking it. You’re letting everybody down. No one here likes you.
All the while, it appears perfectly calm.
It’s always looking for the next outlet, something to channel the never-ending energy. Writing. Running. List-making. Mindless tasks (whatever keeps you busy). Doing jumping jacks in the kitchen. Dancing in the living room, pretending it’s for fun, when really it’s a choreographed routine of desperation, trying to tire out the thoughts stuck in your head.
It’s silent anxiety attacks, hidden by smiles.
It’s always being busy but also always avoiding, so important things don’t get done. It’s letting things pile up rather than admitting you’re overwhelmed or in need of help.
It’s that sharp pang of saying the wrong thing, the one that starts the cycles of thoughts. Because you said too much, and nobody cares, and it makes you never want to speak up again.
It’s going back and forth between everyone else has it together but you, and so many people have it tougher than you.
Get your act together.
Suck it up.
You’re not OK, you’re messing everything up.
You’re totally OK, stop being such a baby.
It’s waking up in the middle of the night sobbing because the worst-case-scenario that just went through your head at high speed seems so real, so vivid, that even when it’s proven to be untrue, it takes hours for your heart to slow down, to feel calm again.
Because how “OK” are you when a day without a plan is enough to make you crumble? When empty spaces make you spiral at the very anticipation of being alone with your thoughts? When you need to make a list to get through a Sunday: watch a show, clean your kitchen, exercise, answer five emails, read 10 pages, watch a show… ?
It’s feeling unqualified to write this piece because I’m getting by. It’s when you’re social enough to get invited to things, but so often find yourself standing in a room where it feels like no one knows you. It’s being good at conversation and bad at making close friends because you only show up when you feel “well” enough. Only text back when you feel ready. Because you’re afraid they’d hate you if they really knew you. That the energy would overwhelm them, and you’d lose them.
So you learn to rein it in. Channel it. Even though sometimes you do everything right (exercise, sleep, one TV show, five emails, 10 pages…) and you’re still left with racing thoughts, the panic. The not good enoughs.
When will it be enough?
Having anxiety means constantly managing motion that can be productive or self-destructive, depending on how much sleep you got. Depending on the day. Depending on the Earth’s alignment with Mars. Depending on…
It’s when “living with it” means learning how to sit with it. Practicing staying in bed a little longer. Challenging the mean, unrelenting voices that say you’re only worth what you produced that day.
It means learning how to say, “I need help.” Trying to take care of yourself without the guilt. It means every once in a while, confiding in a friend. It means sometimes showing up even when you’re scared.
It’s when answering a text impulsively and thoughtlessly is an act of bravery.
It’s fighting against your own need to constantly prove your right to exist in this world.
It’s learning how to validate your own feelings. That even though you don’t feel like you’re enough, and you’ll never be enough, it’s knowing you’re at least anxious enough to benefit from help. That admitting you need it doesn’t confirm voices’ lies. That taking a break doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
It’s finding your own humanity in the anxiety, in your weaknesses. It’s trying to let the energy inspire you, instead of bring you down. It’s forgiving yourself when it wins.
It’s a way to live, with this constant companion. Your bullying twin. Collapsible luggage you can bury away at a moment’s notice. Shove it under the bed. Pretend it’s not there until you can’t fit anymore. Until you can no longer ignore it. Until you have to face it.
A first good step is staring at it straight on and calling it by its name.
High anxiety can be a natural consequence of a busy lifestyle, but its existence is akin to the chicken and the egg. Which came first, the anxiety or the busyness? Am I always moving because I’m anxious or am I anxious because I’m always moving?
Either way, it’s not a noble way to suffer. It’s not a “better” way to be anxious. Just because you’re “functioning” doesn’t always mean you’re happy. And just because you’re functioning doesn’t mean you shouldn’t slow down, breathe and take one damn second to be happy the way things are.
In this very moment.
This quiet, short moment.
To remember the peace you found in that second of silence, until the electricity starts again, and you’re forced to move.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing symptoms of depression and need to talk to someone, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
7 tips for a healthy prostate
Everything you need to know to stay ahead of the game.
by John Casey for MensFitness.com
More than 190,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to keep your prostate healthy as you age—and stay ahead of the game. Here’s what Christopher Saigal, MD, an assistant professor of urology at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center, says to do:
- Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, guava and papaya contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale also are good choices.
- Let your doctor know if you have a family history of prostate cancer. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease.
- Include more soy in your diet from sources such as tofu, soy nuts or soy flour or powders.
- Don’t smoke.
- Eat more selenium-rich foods such as wheat germ, tuna, herring and other seafood and shellfish, beef liver, kidney, eggs, sunflower and sesame seeds, cashews, mushrooms, garlic and onions. Selenium reduces risk of prostate cancer.
- Get a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam annually, beginning at age 50. Men at high risk, such as African American men or men with a strong family history of prostate cancer should begin testing at age 45.
‘I Was 35 and Healthy—Until I Was Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer’
What Sherry Pollex wants you to know about the disease that almost took her life.
BY CASSIE SHORTSLEEVE for Women’s Health Magazine September 22, 2016
“You know when something doesn’t feel right,” she says. “And I just knew something was really wrong.”
Like any health-conscious woman, she went to her primary care physician and was referred to an ob-gyn. The conclusion of an ultrasound: benign ovarian cysts. Nothing more.
Unfortunately, the doctors were wrong. Sherry’s pain worsened to debilitating pelvic woes. So just before jetting off on vacation, she called a family friend, a gastro-surgeon, and asked for a CT scan.
When the results came in, the doctor told Sherry to come in immediately—and to bring her family: The scan revealed tumors all over her pelvic area and abdomen.
Sherry was diagnosed with ovarian cancer—specifically stage III primary peritoneal carcinoma.
“When someone tells you something scary like that, that moment is forever ingrained in your head,” she says. “I was in shock. I was 35 and perfectly healthy with no family history of ovarian cancer.”
Sherry’s boyfriend, NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr., and her mother broke down in tears. Her response? “I said to the doctor, ‘What do I need to do to beat this?’” she says. “In that moment, I was in survival mode.”
Sherry’s doctor urged her to get to a major medical center—fast. If she didn’t, she could be dead by Christmas. It was August 7.
A Road to Recovery
Five days post-diagnosis, Sherry underwent a grueling seven-hour debulking surgery, where a gynecologic oncology surgeon removes as much of the malignant tumors as possible, enhancing the effectiveness of chemotherapy—of which Sherry would need 17 months of.
Starting chemo a month after that kind of a procedure was tough, especially considering it was pumped through her belly.
“I felt like my body was just recovering from the surgery and then they wanted to hit me with eight hours of toxic chemicals once a week,” says Sherry. “I was emotionally and physically exhausted.” Sherry lost her tastebuds, her appetite, 27 pounds of healthy weight, her eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair.
But as she puts it: “You don’t get a reprieve when you’re fighting a deadly disease,” she says. “You just dig in and do it. You want to live so bad.”
A long-time advocate of pediatric cancer through the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation, she also felt the need to fight for the children. “What a hypocrite I would be if I had spent all these years teaching my cancer kids to fight and then didn’t try to beat it myself,” she says.
So she fought.
After major surgery and almost a year-and-a-half of chemo, today—two years later—Sherry says she’s lucky: She’s cancer-free—for now. “I never take one day of being healthy for granted,” she says. “I know that any day, cancer can rear its ugly head again.”
She’s right: Statistics from Texas Oncology suggest the recurrence rate for advanced stage ovarian cancer is between 60 and 80 percent.
Though she suffers from fibrosis—when scar tissue builds up causing pain—Sherry’s doing relatively well. “I had to change some of the things I was doing physically,” she says. Because of the scar tissue, once normal runs are now too painful, so she’s taken up yoga and pilates and walks three miles a day. These are small changes in the scheme of things. “Altering your lifestyle isn’t a huge sacrifice when you’re just happy to be alive,” says Sherry.
Of course, emotionally, it’s been hard. It “was tough to know that I couldn’t have kids,” she says. (Sherry’s surgery included a complete hysterectomy.)
But out of struggle comes a bright side. “You notice the sky is bluer and the grass is greener,” she says. “You wake up each day grateful to be there to make memories with family and friends. And you have a newfound purpose to educate other women about your experience so they don’t have to go through what you’ve been through.”
A New Mission
Since her diagnosis and treatment, Sherry started the site sherrystrong.org—a resource to empower women to know their bodies and recognize symptoms of ovarian cancer. “You have to be your own advocate for your health,” she says. “Had I not called our family friend and told him how much pain I was in that day, I wouldn’t be here today.” Only you know your body best. And sometimes you need to be the one to demand a test or ask questions.
Sherry is passionate about educating people on the options you have if, one day, you’re faced with a cancer scare. She’s a huge supporter of the Vermillion OVA1 blood test—the first FDA-approved blood test to evaluate cancer risk in a pelvic mass. “You can ask for it in the doctor’s office if you’re diagnosed with a pelvic mass,” says Sherry, noting she wishes she knew about it when she was told she had “benign” ovarian cysts.
OVA1 results help ID cancer risk and guide next steps—namely toward a gynecologic oncology surgeon if you’re at high risk for cancer. (If you have a pelvic mass, you can also take a quiz at knowpelvicmass.com to learn about your risk.)
Family history plays a huge role in knowing disease risk, too. While Sherry wasn’t “at risk” due to family history, if you are, testing for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation can help you know where you stand.
“Knowledge is power,” says Sherry. “And we can’t change the survival statistics until we teach women what to look for and what to ask for.”
While ovarian cancer may be rare—the number is still significant. More than 22,000 women are diagnosed every year, and more than 14,000 women die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
And as Sherry says, “What is the definition of ‘rare’ when it’s your sister, daughter, or mother?”
Stress, Health and African American Women: A Black History Month Notation
by Carol J. Scott, M.D. for HuffingtonPost.com on 4/29/13
February is African-American History Month, an annual observance for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. This observance is the most visible legacy of the son of former slaves and scholar Carter G. Woodson who held a Masters Degree from University of Chicago and a Ph.D from Harvard University one hundred years ago in 1912. He pioneered defining a category of history related to ethnic culture and race.
African American women, stress and health: According to solid research, historically African American women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of race-related stress, given their socially constructed identities as African Americans and as women. 1 These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that racial discrimination is a chronic stressor that can negatively impact the cardiovascular health of African Americans through pathogenic processes associated with serious negative reactive changes in blood pressure and heart rate. 2 African American women report more frequent encounters with everyday unfair treatment than Caucasian women. African American women who live in the city report a greater number of acute life events as stressors (divorce, marriage, job loss, etc) than Caucasian women. It’s no surprise that socioeconomic status, everyday experiences with unfair treatment and acute life events each make a significant contribution to differences in women’s health status.3
Coping with Stress:”Black women appear to handle stress somewhat differently from men or white women. Men are more likely to do battle with whoever or whatever is causing stress, or they simply remove themselves from the situation. Caucasian women seem more likely to find stress relief by devoting time to their children or seeking support and friendship from others.” Stress researcher Shelly Taylor calls this a “tend and befriend” response. According to Angela Barnet, Black women’s stress responses are intriguing; “we tend, befriend, mend, and keep it in.” 4
The role of religiosity and spirituality is highly cited when it comes to stress in African American women. A study focused on African American women suggests how religion helps: “(1) accepting reality, (2) gaining the insight and courage needed to engage in spiritual surrender, (3) confront and transcend limitations, (4) identify and grapple with existential questions and life lessons, (5) recognize purpose and destiny, (6) define character and act within subjectively meaningful moral principles, (7) achieve growth, and (8) trust in the viability of transcendent sources of knowledge and communication.” 5 The African Americans Women’s Voices Project gathered the stories of 400 women who spoke about their triumphs and challenges in Dr. Shorter-Gooden and Charisse Jones’ recently published book, Shifting – The Double Lives of Black Women in America.
Health Impact: Research suggests subtle mistreatment (micro-inequities) leads to a increased surges in diastolic blood pressure (DBP) for African American women but not white women. And those African American women who say racial discrimination is the cause of their mistreatment showed greater average reactive surge in blood pressure. 6Compared with Caucasian women, African-American women have an 85 percent higher rate of ambulatory medical care visits for high blood pressure. The rate of high blood pressure for non-Hispanic black females age 20 and older is 45 percent. Elevated blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and as many as 20 percent of all deaths in hypertensive African-American women may be due to their high blood pressure. The authors found that for African American women higher degrees of Afro centric cultural values were associated with greater perceived stigma about counseling and greater self-concealment. 7 Women who were more overweight were experiencing more stress. Also, 50 percent of the women thought that stress negatively affected their weight-control behavior. Additionally, occupational stressors related to racism, sexism, and workload were major stressors for this group of women. 8 Like men and women of all ethnicities, constant and ongoing stressors damages feelings of being in control of your lives and makes you less resilient.
The Future: This blog shares historical and scientific data. It is not intended to stereotype or promote being ‘stuck’ in the past. This information should not to be misconstrued as applicable to all African American women. Quite the opposite. African American women are not monolithic and rightfully claim many identities which shape individual experiences of the world.
Finally, the good news is that Generation X, Millennials and the new Silent Generation are shaping a new world and texture which will allow this historical data to inform but not guide the future success, health and wellness of all Americans.
What’s your opinion? Do you think the experience of stress for women in contemporary American daily life is influenced by race and/or ethnicity?
T. M. Greer. Coping Strategies as Moderators of the Relation Between Individual Race-Related Stress and Mental Health Symptoms for African American Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2011; 35 (2): 215
2 Discrimination and unfair treatment: Relationship to cardiovascular reactivity among African American and European American women. Guyll, Max;Matthews, Karen A.;Bromberger, Joyce T.
Health Psychology, Vol 20(5), Sep 2001, 315-325.
3 A Schulz, B Israel, D Williams, E Parker, A Becker, S James, Social inequalities, stressors and self reported health status among African American and white women in the Detroit metropolitan area, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 51, Issue 11, 1 December 2000, Pages 1639-1653,
4 Angela Neal-Barnet. (2003) Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman’s Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic, and Fear. Simon & Shuster, inc. New York, NY.
5 Mattis, J. S. (2002), Religion and Spirituality in the Meaning-Making and Coping Experiences of African American Women: A Qualitative Analysis. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26: 309-321.
6 Discrimination and unfair treatment: Relationship to cardiovascular reactivity among African American and European American women. Guyll, Max;Matthews, Karen A.;Bromberger, Joyce T.
Health Psychology, Vol 20(5), Sep 2001, 315-325.
7 Wallace, B.C., & Constantine, M.G. (2005). Africentric cultural values, psychological help-seeking attitudes, and self-concealment in African American college students. Journal of Black Psychology, 31(4), 369-385
8 Walcott-McQuigg JA. The relationship between stress and weight-control behavior in African-American women. J Natl Med Assoc. 1995;87(6):427-432.