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For many people with diabetes, it is recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) that they have an A1C of less than 7 percent to help reduce the risk of complications. For certain individuals, a higher or lower A1C may be more appropriate, which is why it is important for people with diabetes to speak with their health care providers to discuss the A1C goal that is right for them. Nearly half of people with diabetes have an A1C greater than 7 percent.

Merkerson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2003 after having her blood sugar tested at a health fair event and being urged to see her doctor. Despite having a family history of the disease, Merkerson was unaware she had type 2 diabetes. After her diagnosis, Merkerson became serious about her health and worked with her doctor to establish her own A1C goal and develop a personalized diabetes management plan, which included diet, exercise and medication to help her achieve that goal. By sticking to that plan—and making changes with her doctor when necessary—Merkerson has kept her blood sugar under control.  

“I lost my father and grandmother to complications of type 2 diabetes,” says Merkerson, “so I learned firsthand how important it is to know your A1C and make a commitment to get to your goal. That’s why I’m excited to work with Merck on America’s Diabetes Challenge to help urge African Americans to learn about proper blood sugar management and inspire them to set and attain their own A1C goal.”

Type 2 diabetes is a significant health concern in the African-American community. In fact, nearly 20 percent of the adult African-American population has diabetes. Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death in the community. Nearly 10 percent (age-adjusted) of the population of Dallas County, Texas has diabetes, and the African-American community comprises about 25 percent of the city’s population.

Most people with diabetes are aware of the importance of controlling high blood sugar, but it’s also important for them to understand why blood sugar can sometimes go too low. For people on certain diabetes medications, low blood sugar can be caused by skipping meals or excessive exercise and can make you feel shaky, dizzy, sweaty, hungry, and sometimes, faint. Make sure your doctor explains the signs and symptoms of high and low blood sugar to you and let him or her know if you are experiencing any of those symptoms.

As part of the America’s Diabetes Challenge program, Merkerson will be participating in the American Diabetes Association’s Live Empowered event in Dallas, Texas on August 14 at the Concord Church to share her story and encourage attendees with type 2 diabetes to pledge to work with their doctors to know their A1C and set and attain their own A1C goal. Friends and family can also pledge to challenge their loved ones to get to their A1C goal. People with type 2 diabetes who take the challenge can stay motivated by completing missions and accessing resources available on that will help them work with their doctor to come up with an individualized treatment plan that is right for them.

“We are excited to work with Merck and S. Epatha Merkerson to include America’s Diabetes Challenge as part of our Live Empowered event,” said Shenekqual Robertson, Senior Manager of Education & Programs, ADA North Texas Office. “The American Diabetes Association is committed to raising awareness of diabetes and providing relevant resources for people with the condition to help them get to their treatment goals. This program is providing important information for African Americans living with type 2 diabetes, as well as their friends and family.”

For more information about Merkerson’s story, the America’s Diabetes Challenge program, and to make a pledge to set and attain your own blood sugar goals, visit can also join the America’s Diabetes Challenge community by visiting

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S. Epatha Merkerson Challenges African Americans With Type 2 Diabetes  was originally published on