During the last century, diabetes treatment was still being refined, with the development of testing equipment and supplies providing patients with greater control and flexibility in the management of their disease. But in some ways, it was still like the wild, wild West.
That’s what Daniel Tann, a Philadelphia lawyer, saw growing up.
“I come from a family that had diabetes,” he says. “My father had it. My maternal grandmother had it. My paternal uncle had it. I knew about controlling blood sugar and watching what you eat. My grandmother had it back in the dark ages, where they experimented with different types of insulin and didn’t know what they were doing. As a child, I saw how she would go into diabetic comas. To a very young child, a person in a coma looks dead.”
But even that scary, early exposure to diabetes didn’t keep Tann from developing the disease. “It was something I should’ve watched out for better, but like most people, you’re young and invincible,” he says.
Unlike many men, however, Tann did get regular checkups. Despite not displaying any symptoms—something that’s actually fairly common; researchers say three in 10 Americans are living with the disease but don’t know it—his checkup at age 30 revealed something alarming: His blood sugar was 380.
His doctor was blunt: “He said, ‘Modify your lifestyle or I’ll schedule you to start chopping things off,’” Tann says. Recalling what his grandmother and father had gone through battling the disease, he went from zero to fear in an instant.
Then he buckled down to do the work necessary to manage his disease. “I made changes that very day,” he says.
He started hitting the gym three times a week, with swimming his go-to exercise. He also watches what he eats. “I’m not on a diet per se, but I monitor what I eat heavily—lots of vegetables, low on the carbs. I eat smaller portions. I cut my food in half in the restaurant before I even start eating,” Tann says. “I drink lots of water; I keep my water bottle with me.”
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Tune in to Black Enterprise’s Your Diabetes Self-Care Package series as we celebrate health and wellness this National Diabetes Awareness Month.