You have not been feeling well as of late, so you schedule an appointment to see your doctor. He orders up a round of blood tests, and after a night of fasting you have your blood drawn. The sting of the needle gets you to thinking about your lifestyle choices. You have gained weight and are exercising less. Your eyesight seems slightly blurry, and your skin is dryer than normal.
After sitting in the exam room for what seems like an eternity, the doctor comes in and greets you as normal. He doesn’t seem too alarmed, and he is cordial and professional. You exchange pleasantries with him and then he gets down to business. He mumbles to himself as he reads your lab results. You hear things like “mmmm” and “humph”. Finally, he says that your A1C level is high. You’re thinking to yourself that the term A1 sounds positive. He looks at you and says, “Your A1C is at 9.3. You have Type 2 diabetes.”
You sit there for a moment and contemplate what the doctor just said. You’re not sure how to respond. He looks you over and sees that you look worried and confused. He begins by assuring you that you are not going to die and that the condition is treatable.
This is a scene that plays out all over the US every day. As a nation, we continue to choose poor eating habits and are becoming more obese all the time. Those of us with this condition have more than likely become insulin resistant, and the pancreas can no longer keep up. A diet of excessive amounts of processed foods with a high glycemic index like white bread, sugar, corn syrup, and other cheap processed food is probably the culprit.
We have become more separated from our whole food roots and find ourselves eating fast food meals high in carbohydrates and fat, a regular calorie bomb that could sustain you for the day and beyond. We need a dictionary just read the ingredients.
All is not lost though. Type 2 diabetes is manageable and treatable. If you manage it well, your A1C results may lower over time. Your doctor will prescribe diabetes medication and may even refer you to a dietician. It took you time to get there, and it is going to take time to reverse course. Many newly diagnosed patients fear that they are going to have to take insulin injections and worry about needles. This is not the case.
Your doctor will probably prescribe a low dosage of oral medication such as Metformin, which is the most common medication for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. You will need to purchase a blood glucose meter. There are many brands and models of these devices, and the one you choose will ultimately be a personal choice.
Check your blood glucose at least twice a day, before breakfast and dinner. Keep a journal and log the time and blood glucose level. There are several Apple and Android apps you can download to keep track of your testing. Many will create graphs so you can visualize where your levels are. Most if not all of the blood glucose meters on the market have a storage memory of your tests.
In about a month, you will return to your doctor, and he will order whatever adjustments are necessary. Hopefully you will be able to show that you have gotten those glucose levels under control. If not he may increase your medication or add other medications to the mix.
Normal blood glucose levels should be in the mid 60’s mg/dL to the high 80’s mg/dL. This translates into the number of milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood. For Type 2 diabetics, blood glucose readings in the low 100’s mg/dL, is acceptable. When you start to stay consistently above 200 mg/dL, there can be severe long-term consequences to your health.
The effects of uncontrolled blood glucose can be catastrophic. The most common concern for a middle age male is blindness. See an eye doctor at least once a year to make sure you do not have any optical damage from the disease. Other issues associated with diabetes are poor blood circulation to the extremities such as the feet and hands. Examples of extreme effects could be going into a diabetic coma followed by death.
Hopefully you understand that the dangers associated with Type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t manage the disease. It sounds scary at first but once you get started on a regimen of medication, healthy diet, exercise, and diligently checking blood glucose levels, you are on the way to good management or better yet reversal.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a diabetic. I’m willing to bet if you are reading this you or someone you love is too. Coming soon in Part II will be dietary strategies and exercises to help manage your condition.