S. Epatha Merkerson is best known for her former role in the TV series Law and Order. Today you can see her on the popular show Chicago Med as the hospital administrator Sharon Goodwin.
S. Epatha’s celebrity status does not take away from her passion in helping other people with diabetes learn more about their disease. She comes from a family with a history of type 2 diabetes—she has personally witnessed how devastating diabetes complications can be seeing several close family members suffer from them.
Her own personal journey with type 2 diabetes started when she was working long hours on Law and Order. She had put on 40 pounds and was a cigarette smoker. Her unquenchable thirst and frequent visits to the restroom did not alarm her. It wasn’t until she received her type 2 diabetes diagnosis that everything about her symptoms fell into place.
Deciding to Be Healthy
S. Epatha made a conscious decision to tackle her diabetes. The suffering she saw her family members go through inspired her to be more proactive in managing her own disease. Losing weight, walking whenever she could and having a support group proved to be a good formula for managing her diabetes.
Working closely with her healthcare professional and knowing her A1C made her realize how she could have a positive impact with people living with diabetes. Similar to many people that have a family disposition to this disease, she never realized how important it was for her to know her A1C number.
The A1C Test
The A1C sometimes referred to as Hemoglobin A1C, glycosylated hemoglobin, glycated Hemoglobin, and HbA1c measures your average blood sugar level. Testing your blood sugar on a blood glucose meter only tells you what your blood sugar reading is in that moment in time. The A1C measures your average blood sugar levels over a period of 90 days, giving you a more accurate reading in terms how you are managing your blood sugars over all.
Once S. Epatha understood the importance of her A1C and how it related to her diabetes, she decided to champion an A1C awareness campaign, “America’s Diabetes Challenge.” She joined Merck and the American Diabetes Association to use her celebrity status to engage people in understanding why their A1C numbers are so important to know. Her message, “Get to Your Goal,” resonates with the people who attend her public appearances. Her advice on how to cope with blood sugars makes her an excellent spokeswoman for managing a complicated disease that never takes a day off.
“Don’t get discouraged when you have a high blood sugar,” she says. “Go for a walk and talk to your healthcare professional about your blood sugars. Learn your A1C: Most people do not know their A1C number” says S. Epatha.
Managing her blood sugars and the daily stress of taking care of her diabetes has influenced S. Ephata’s compassionate and caring voice. When you hear her speak, you instantly get how much she cares about educating people to know importance of their A1c number. Part of her concern comes from a worrisome statistic: “About one-third of adults with diabetes are not at their A1C goal.”
“When you check your A1C regularly, you should expect change. Sometimes the number is higher and at other times lower. The number you see in each A1C is not necessarily permanent. It is simply a reflection of the last three months, which can be both positively and negatively impacted by work, diet, exercise, and stress.
“The important thing for me is to sit with my doctor to see how I can stay proactive in managing my diabetes and learn to anticipate these changes. For example, if I know I have a stressful week coming up, I can plan my diet and exercise ahead of time. Of course diet and exercise is something I discuss with my healthcare professional.”
Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT)
A landmark study conducted in 1990, known as the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), showed that 50 to 80 percent of diabetes complications are preventable through education. One major component of education is understanding how people’s blood sugars affect them. The website at americasdiabeteschallenge.com allows people with diabetes to access important information about symptoms and family history, and how those apply to them.
If you would like to meet up with S. Epatha Merkerson she will be present at the November 10th event in Birmingham, AL.
You can learn more about your A1C at anyone of these free upcoming “America’s Diabetes Challenge” events at these locations:
23rd Annual Balcones Heights Jazz Festival in San Antonio on Friday, July 15
American Diabetes Association’s Feria de Salud in NYC on Saturday, August 20
40th Annual Last Blast of Summer celebration in Cincinnati on Saturday, September 3
Taking Control of Your Diabetes Conference in San Diego on Saturday, October 1
American Diabetes Association’s Step Out Walk in Philadelphia on Saturday, November 5
American Diabetes Association’s Live Empowered Luncheon in Birmingham, AL., on Thursday, November 10