Patti LaBelle had no idea about her condition when she collapsed but it alerted her that she needs to make immediate changes.
Working until you drop may just be a phrase but Patti LaBelle thought that it was her reality. When she collapsed on stage while performing in 1994, she assumed it was out of exhaustion. However, it became a symbol of change in her life.
After thinking about it, she figured that it was her work that made her pass out. "I landed on working so hard," the Grammy Award-winning singer tells Yahoo Life. "We toured a lot and I figured I was exhausted when I fell onstage. We were singing and I passed out." LaBelle was about 50 years old then.
She had no idea about the disease she had then as she wasn't looking for the symptoms. When she was taken to the hospital, LaBelle was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She was shocked by the diagnosis even though it ran in the family.
"Everything changed," LaBelle, now 76, said. She started on medication and now checks her blood sugar multiple times a day. She also started taking her diet and fitness seriously. "I realized I couldn’t eat some of the foods I loved anymore," she said. "I stopped with cheesecake, fried chicken, those things," she stated.
She acknowledged that she was never the kind of person who would go to the doctor but that too changed. "I wasn’t that girl who goes to the doctor. It saved my life, falling out on stage that night. If you don’t go to the doctor, you’re just living every day never knowing if you don’t have diabetes," she explained. "I say to everyone — every man, woman and child — check yourself," she added.
The On My Own singer, businesswoman, and author doesn't skip on doctor visits even if she feels only a little unwell. She has also taken charge of her health, something all of us can do. "When I was diagnosed, that was a wake-up call to stop frying the chicken," she said. "[Now] it's more salads and I carry my pots and pans on the road with me to make sure I'm eating the proper foods because if I cook it, I know what's in it," she told ABC News.
At 76, she is still strong and is still performing and that's because she started taking her health seriously in her 50s at least. When she started cooking for herself, it was a blessing. "I cook so well, thank God. That saved me," said LaBelle to Yahoo Life. She keeps her food tasting amazing with staples like grapeseed oil, habanero, and garlic. "As long as it’s spicy and garlic, I can prepare it," she added.
The performer walks her dog and works out in her basement to stay in shape. "On stage, I dance a lot. Since we’re not doing tours right now, I dance in the basement," she added.
Even when she's on the road and it's hard to maintain the right diet, she somehow manages it. "It’s very hard for a woman who travels," she noted. She even makes special requests to chefs at restaurants. "I prefer to cook for myself. If I go to the restaurant, I have to talk to the chef and make sure he’s not putting anything in my food," she added.
As hard as this new lifestyle has been, she knows that she is in charge. A diabetes diagnosis "isn’t a death sentence." Especially, today, there are many ways of controlling one's blood sugar levels. "Even if you have diabetes, you can be fierce, cute, and eat well," she says. "I have diabetes; Diabetes does not have me," said the Somebody Love You Baby singer.
More than 34 million Americans have diabetes and approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes, according to CDC. This kind of diabetes usually develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it. We need insulin to process sugar as energy for our body but slowly our bodies don't respond to insulin. Insulin resistance is becoming increasingly common and it needs to be kept in check. High blood sugar levels can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.