Lifestyle

Diabetes Awareness Month: Young Texas Actress Shares Her Story with Type 1

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States according to the American Diabetes Association. Over 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and 1 in 4 don’t even know they have it. But a diabetes diagnosis doesn’t mean life, as you know, is over. There are many proactive steps you can do to assist you in preventing diabetes or learning how to manage it so you can continue living a productive and healthier lifestyle.

“About 193,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, approximately 0.24% of that population,” shares the Diabetes Association. “The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high, at 25.2%, or 12.0 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).” Disheartening facts as our young actress below, Jennifer Stone, shared her struggles with Type 1 diabetes.

Types of Diabetes

American Diabetes Association

Photo: Facebook.com/AmericanDiabetesAssociation

Diabetes comes in many forms but there are three main culprits: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). Not to be dismissed is Prediabetes which is an unwelcomed host into developing Type 2 diabetes if not controlled.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes.” The good news is prediabetes can be reversed with proper adjustments to your healthy lifestyle habits. The not so good news about Type 1 as shared by Beyond Type 1 is “T1D is neither preventable nor curable and while its cause is unknown, studies prove that T1D results from a genetic predisposition together with an environmental trigger.”

Type 2 occurs when your body isn’t able to properly utilize its insulin and keep blood sugars within a normal range. “Also known as “insulin resistance,” and can often be treated through diet, exercise, and medication,” shares beyondtype1.org. Michelle Davila a Registered Dietitian with Spring Branch Community Health Center in Houston, TX had this to share, “the advice I would give to those diagnosed with diabetes, is that diabetes is not a death sentence.  On the contrary, it is a condition that can very well be controlled following a carbohydrate-controlled diet and regular exercise. It is vital to receive nutrition education to understand how the body processes foods and how exercise is also a vital component in blood sugar control.”

Jennifer Stone 

Jennifer Stone 2

Photo: Rick Bhatia

Actress Jennifer Stone was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the tender age of 20. You may remember her as Harper Finkle in Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place,” the adorable sidekick to Selena Gomez’s character. Stone grew up in Arlington, Texas and knows all too well the daily struggles someone with Type 1 deals with on a day to day basis.

Stone, now 24, was shocked at the diagnosis and shared its part of the reason she wanted to get involved with Beyond Type 1 and the Diabetes Associaton. “There was so much I didn’t know about it, and I didn’t know it was possible to get diagnosed with Type 1 that late,” shared Stone. “I started to lose my eyesight, and gained weight and thought there was something wrong with my Thyroid.” Like many, Stone was in unchartered territory with a range of emotions going through her mind. “It was a very scary time and really overwhelming. It felt like my entire life was turned upside down,” shared Stone. “It was a really big mountain to climb I wasn’t expecting to climb at the time.”

“How you eat an elephant –  one bite at a time,” laughed Stone as she shared this was advice she received from her grandmother that helped her tackle the road she now faced ahead with Type 1. “I just need to handle this one day at a time, and I’ll get to where I can balance it,” said Stone. She shared that she can safely say even though she has days where it’s frustrating, it isn’t as overwhelming for her as when she was first diagnosed.

Even though she had doctors tell her she would have to quit acting, Stone was not about to give up her passions and dreams just because of this diagnosis. A trailblazer and inspiration to many, she is changing the fabric of what it means to live with Type 1 by being a voice for many and breaking down barriers to bring more awareness to the forefront through organizations such as Beyond Type 1 of which she is part of their Global Ambassador Council.

Stone’s passion as she speaks about making sure everyone has a place to find answers to help them in their journey with diabetes is uplifting and motivating. “I am trying to be as open and honest about my daily struggles with Type 1,” shared Stone. On a small scale, she will share a daily struggle with Type 1 on social media so that others can relate. “On a larger scale, I am looking for different legislation to bring more awareness and education to schools and also to help people get the equipment they need to make their lives as easy as possible with diabetes.”

A positive aspect of her diagnosis, Stone shared is “that its made me take care of myself more. How I approach work and life are it’s forced me to stand up for myself and take better care because I have to and I’m really thankful for that.” With the strong support system, she has in her mother, along with adjustments to her lifestyle, Stone has found a balance to tackle her diagnosis head-on. “You have two choices, you either let diabetes win or you’re going to conquer over it,” shared Stone who is also close to getting her nursing license, a field she is well versed in as she discussed the breakdown of diabetes on your body and its misconceptions. Not only a darling on screen but a warrior in the fight against this disease.

How to Advocate for Diabetes

Beyond Type 1

Photo: Facebook.com/beyondtype1

There are many things you can do to advocate for diabetes awareness. One is to bring to light the diabetic myths that exist and replace with hardcore facts of what diabetes is. “In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled as the American population has aged,” shared the diabetes association.

It’s important to stay at the forefront of this fight and continue to support the millions dealing with this disease and support the research opportunities trailblazing forward for a cure. Fighting for affordable medicine and healthcare for those dealing with diabetes, and lobbying for their rights is an everyday battle to continue. As a caregiver to a parent who struggled with Type 1, it’s important to learn your family history and get yearly check-ups on your Hemoglobin A1c. “This test measures the average blood sugar for the previous three months.  It can identify those patients with pre-diabetes and therefore allow them to make dietary and lifestyle modifications to prevent diabetes,” shared Davila.

Supporting the efforts of such groups as the American Diabetes Association and Beyond Type 1 both of which provide valuable information and resources to assist those dealing with this disease is important so that together we continue to move closer to finding a cure.