Today, Charles Harris walks five miles a day, has quit smoking, and has lost 70 pounds. But living a healthy life did not come easy to Harris.
For several years, Harris, 49, struggled with diabetes. Though he took medication, Harris didn’t take the disease seriously and continued with a dangerous lifestyle of smoking, eating fatty foods, consuming sugary drinks, and no exercise that took his weight to more than 350 pounds.
His physician at NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx grew concerned and referred him to Miriam Junor, North Central Bronx’s diabetes educator, who was able to get through to him with the hard truth: If he didn’t act, diabetes could kill him.
“I learned what I was up against when it came to my diabetes,” Harris said. “Knowing what the disease can do, I slowly and surely took action.”
Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are too high. Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. However, proper diabetes management can reduce the risk of complications.
Junor, the diabetes educator, said she was forced to confront Harris about the effects of his diabetes.
“If not treated and handled properly, diabetes can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, blood vessels, heart, teeth and gums,” Junor told Harris.
Harris is one of over 1,000 patients who have been treated at NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx diabetes education program over the years. The program offers classes that focus on healthy eating, being active, monitoring blood sugar levels, taking medication, and reducing risks to prevent exacerbating the disease. The program also has support groups that give patients a chance to share their experiences in managing their diabetes.
Across New York City, our facilities and health centers that are part of NYC Health + Hospitals treat more than 50,000 adults with diabetes. We also care for thousands of other children and adults who are at risk of the disease.
At the NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx diabetes classes, Harris learned about meal planning, portion control, adding fiber to his food plan, taking his medication, how to improve his A1C levels, and getting regular check-ups from his doctors. He began to exercise by walking five miles a day and lifting weights. Harris, who is married and has two daughters, also gave up cigarette smoking. Over the past five years, he lost over 70 pounds and improved his blood sugar levels.
“I took the bull by the horns. One day at a time. I have a new way of living. This is my life and I want to live it healthy,” he says.
Every year, Harris enjoys attending the North Central Bronx event for World Diabetes Day, on November 14th. It’s his way of saying thank you to the hospital and caregivers that saved his life.
“I love to give back to the program and help others who have diabetes,” he says.