Recently, the multi-talented Debbie Allen was given a full-on Hollywood salute by those in the industry who admire her for her tenacity, creativity, and perseverance. Everyone from Ava DuVernay to Mara Brock Akil delievered a message of love based on Allen’s Netflix’s Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker special, which celebrated the artistic director and founder of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. The video brought the Grey’s Anatomy executive producer to tears.
“It was so meaningful, they really made me cry," Allen told BET.com in an interview. "For people to stop for a moment and give me that moment, it was so touching for me.”
Allen has always represented Black excellence. As a role model for dancers, actors, directors and more, she paved the way for so many, and to date, makes it a point to give back to the community. It’s no wonder that during Black History Month and American Heart Month, the legend opens up about her recent prediabetes diagnosis and a partnership with the National Kidney Foundation.
“In 2020, the National Kidney Foundation started a campaign called, “Are You the 33%?” This was to raise awareness to the 1 in 3 Americans walking around with chronic kidney disease that don't know it,” Allen says. “Now, they partnered with Bayer, because they wanted to add to this campaign about type 2 diabetes, and how this is a huge risk factor in chronic kidney disease.”
Allen, knowing that the Black community is hit hardest by kidney disease and type 2 diabetes has a special message about prevention.
“This is a time for everyone to really pay attention to your full picture. This is a time to take in your entire health situation, and do what you need to do,” she says.
Here are several facts about type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease offered by Debbie Allen in hopes of giving the Black community the wake-up call we all could use.
Connecting Chronic Kidney Disease And Type 2 Diabetes
“It's something that we should take seriously. The complications from type 2 diabetes is one of the biggest risks for chronic kidney disease. If you have this, it only gets worse in time. You can have kidney problems, heart problems—all of these organs work in tandem,” Allen says.
According to the 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, new diabetes cases were greater in the non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic communities than in white and Asian population groups.
“So this something that is important for me because I'm always the last one on my list. I never stop and think about me. But in thinking about me, I'm thinking about my entire family,” she says.
Why This is Personal To Her
“Type 2 diabetes has really ravaged my family for generations. My grandfather died of it, my father, and my aunts and uncles died of complications from type 2 diabetes so it's something I've been on the lookout for my entire adult life,” says Allen.
According to a 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.2 million Americans have diabetes. And 37% of those diagnosed had chronic kidney disease.
“I didn't pay as much attention to food when I was at Howard University and running around at the parties. But as an adult, and certainly when I started having children, I started paying attention,” Allen says. “And daddy had always told me that if I kept dancing, I would never get it. And so, I've danced my whole life. But now I don't dance as much as I used to.”
A Prediabetes Diagnosis Propelled Her Into Action
“I knew that I needed to do something about it. And it was really this campaign that educated me about this simple urine test called uACR. You can ask your health care giver to give it to you, and you can find out if you have chronic kidney disease,” Allen says. “I took the test, and I was thrilled to know that I don't have it.”
There is also a blood test called eGFR that can tell you as well. “I'm a grandmother now and a mother to hundreds of young people and elders that I'm mentoring. It's very important that they get this information. Information is power. And I feel like I'm sitting in my own seat of power when I can look at my own health situation and know what I'm looking for so I can make a plan and do something about it.”
How She Stays Motivated
“My husband [former NBA player, Norman Nixon] exercises every day, so he's ahead of the game. I've always been really good with my eating, but I got a lot better. If you're going to have chicken, grill or broil it, don’t fry it. Take the skin off of it. Don't use so much salt and eat lots of vegetables that are fresh and that are not cooked. When you eat uncooked food, you get all the nutrients,” Allen says.
Now, she works with a personal trainer, drinks plenty of water and takes her vitamins.
“My husband, he's so sweet. He brings me my little capsule of vitamins every day. And he's like, ‘You’re going to be here.’ I’m like, ‘I know, I'm not going anywhere.’”
For more information on living with type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, visit MinuteForYourKidneys.org.
Photo courtesy of Debbie Allen and Spectrum Science