Hello family, I wanted to do this as sort of a follow up to my Brown Sugar post. This is my accountability post. If I am talking so much about food and health, I should be practicing it in my own life, right? Well then, because you are reader and a member of this movement, I want you to have the details. I decided I’m going to do a post like this every year.
First, though, I want to share a bit about my family medical history. The thing is, you need to know, that if I’m saying all of this stuff about food and health, that I’m practicing it and it is working for real.
Grandma aka Mere Vé Vé
My maternal grandmother, Veronique, came to the US when I was 4 years old. She was known as a rather strong woman. They say that even during the year before she made her way to the US, Mere Vé Vé could be seen carrying heavy loads of harvested vegetables and ground provisions (root vegetables) in buckets from her garden to her home. In her village, Pointe Michel, Dominica, people’s gardens were not adjacent to their homes. So picture her treading uphill to a garden plot (at least 5-6 city blocks? 1/4 mile or so?) away from home to carry back food. She was 58 years old, with no history of any medical problems. Then she came to 1980’s America.
Within 9 years, she had been diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure and she had gone blind from glaucoma. I can remember her as a fiery lady, always with a joke ready. She loved to laugh and she loved to dance to songs by The Mighty Sparrow. I can also remember her sitting on the couch in the living room injecting insulin into her thigh. By the time I was 13, she passed away.
Not long after, there was a scare. My Uncle Fitzroy – my mother’s younger brother, who arrived a year after my grandma in the US and lived with us through much of my childhood – was rushed to the hospital one night. The emergency, I later learned, was caused by diabetes. He was diagnosed in his early 30s. This gave everyone in my family pause. Even I, in my early teens, was disturbed by this.
When he arrived in the US at age 23, he was slim, just like all the other recent male Caribbean immigrants of that era with very few exceptions. He taught me how to play soccer and he also loved to make jokes. In my memory, this was so strange, because I remembered my grandmother and I knew other elderly people were diabetic, but Uncle Fitzroy was still, from my perspective, pretty young. How could he get this disease already? Indeed, we all noticed he did start getting kind of fat as time went by, but in those days we had come to expect people to put on extra weight as they got older, like it was just inevitable. Now I know how wrong we all were!
My mother was more than likely suffering from some degree of insulin resistance herself, but was never diagnosed. Now knowing what I know, this hypothesis is because she struggled mightily but unsuccessfully to take off the extra pounds she carried for most of her 40’s. She tried exercising and did her best to walk a lot and stay active. She was not into snacks – that was not a real issue for her generation. But she ate the SAD – the Standard American Diet – for the most part, thinking that there was nothing particularly unhealthy about it. We all believed that lie. She was anemic, but there were no other diagnoses, until she was diagnosed with cancer in her lung (she was NOT a smoker, btw) at age 55. She died the next year.
Why Look Back?
The point of sharing my family’s medical history with you is this: it doesn’t reflect anything that I have going on in my life at the moment. When I first visited Mount Sinai with the intention of donating a kidney to my father (1), my blood pressure was borderline high and there was talk of potential pre-diabetes. Yes, and I was 212 lbs, and for my height, that is obese at a Body Mass Index of slightly over 35. I like the Smart Body Mass Index calculator for a good contextual interpretation of BMI results.
So, without further ado, here are my numbers as of December 6, 2017:
Kidney Donation: March 10, 2016. Labs from Mount Sinai done in July 11, 2017 show that my one remaining kidney is stable.
Current Condition: 30 Weeks Pregnant (that’s about 7 1/2 months), Age 41
Blood work Results: Slightly anemic, now taking iron supplement more diligently. Still in prayer for a food-based way to deal with that so I can wean off the supplement. Please agree with me in prayer for that! Cholesterol and all other readings were normal.
Blood Pressure: 99/59 – Anything below 120/80 is considered normal. If your reading is consistently higher than this, you may have High Blood Pressure. My reading is consistently at or below this level.
Blood Sugar: 83 mg/dL – If your doctor sees anything over 100, the may want to test your fasting and postprandial (after meal) blood sugar a few more times in the near future to see if you are running those numbers consistently. This is how they determine whether to diagnose you with Diabetes.
Weight: 177 lbs, up from a pre-pregancy weight of 155. There doesn’t appear to be a method to check BMI during pregnancy, but my pre-pregnancy BMI was just under 26 which, according to the Smart Body Mass Index calculator, is a healthy weight that does not implicate the probably of any health problems developing.
Note that my weight this far into the 3rd trimester is still far less than my weight was before Really Nourish. In other words, at almost 8 months pregnant, I’m still lighter than I was then, and I was not pregnant then!
How’s that for an African-American woman?
In Case You Were Thinking It…
One last thing – it isn’t because I moved out of America that I am able to maintain the healthy lifestyle that produces these great results. As of January 2017, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the top 3 obese countries in Latin America according to the Pan American Health Organization. Here, 31% of the population is obese and 50% is at least overweight. We’re also running about a 10% diabetes rate here, and a recent article in a local newspaper reported that heart disease has now overtaken crime as the number one killer of Trinidadians. So, no, the lifestyle here does NOT lend itself to better health. Fast food and junk food are as ubiquitous here as they are states-side. I have to make the same deliberate, concerted effort to keep my food life on track as I did back in New York.
Nonetheless, my Really Nourish tribe, I wanted you to know that I am indeed dedicated. I will keep it going, and you can consider me a source of support and information. In fact, for this to really keep going, its important that the tribe grows.
So there’s my evidence, family. Thank you for motivating me.
(1) I did not include my dad’s medical history because he’s not my blood relative. He’s actually my stepfather. Having said that, his medical history is a bit more relevant than some would make it, because when looking into medical history for lifestyle diseases, we should really shift our thinking from bloodlines to social settings. This suggestion is based on the information from The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D, which explains that
- Genetics only account for 2-3% of a person’s predisposition towards the diseases in this category,
- The other 97-98% of predisposition comes from environmental factors, of which diet is one, and
- Dietary changes can turn genes on and off.
Therefore, it is not who is related to me by blood, but who I ate with throughout my childhood, that truly would have set the patterns leading toward lifestyle diseases. Therefore: My dad was diagnosed with hypertension in 1982, and although he experienced swelling in his feet sometime in the 1990’s, he never followed up on this with a doctor. Indeed, he could have been suffering from renal disease since then. He had a heart attack at age 62 or so, and then both his kidneys failed (end stage renal disease) at age 68. He married my mom when I was 10, so he’s my dad, with whom I was socialized, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, throughout the remainder of my childhood.