If you are diabetic and have taken to the internet, then you know there is a TON of information out there. It also seems as if most diabetes websites have a “community” aspect to them where you can create your own profile, establish a blog, network with new friends and chat via message boards….. kind of like a diabetic Facebook! The sites are nothing short of a lifeline for both diabetic “rookies” and “lifers.” I troll through the many message boards observing the themes associated with the different stages of type 2 diabetes. I do occasionally comment with the intent to ask a question, answer a question, share a recipe, offer encouragement, etc. I do have 2 rules in the thoughts I put out there 1) no negativity and 2) no confrontations. Yesterday, I semi-broke #2.
I read a message board entry that stated that all diabetic will experience complications, especially if diagnosed young How do you NOT confront that statement? It is like it reached out of the computer and slapped me in the face. If that is true, why am I counting Weight Watchers Points, counting carbohydrates, pricking my find 4-5x/ day, exercising like a mad woman, and why is a blog like this even necessary? Well, I’ll tell you why…. because, despite what my precious 15 year old stepdaughter says, I AM young. I was 31 when I had borderline gestational diabetes and I was 33 when I was diagnosed with type II. I am young and I know diabetic complications are not guaranteed to be part of my future. And, young or old (aka young at heart), I want you to know that the same goes for you!
That statement, even in all its inaccuracy, did raise a few thoughts about the nature of diabetic complications and how we are instructed to prevent them. Many of us have WONDERFUL physicians, I personally have the BEST ; ). However, due to the nature of their job, they give us a glucometer and refer us to a class or individual nutritionist where we learn how many carbs to eat, what kind to eat, when to check our blood glucose and the recommended ranges for blood sugar. Many of us walk away with the assumption that managing our blood glucose is all we need to do to prevent diabetic complications, I know I did. Good thing I am married to a medical student!
Mr. Man, a 3rd year med student, attended a luncheon this week featuring a leading endocrinologist. This gentleman discussed how doctors must begin coaching their diabetic patients to do more than just manage blood sugar. The management of blood sugar is for 3 things in particular – preventing neuropathy, retinopathy and nephropathy. These are 3 very serious common complications of diabetes; but, there are many others and 2 biggies are heart disease and stroke. As a diabetic, preventing heart disease and stroke goes beyond just managing my blood sugar. I, personally, needed to lose 85 lbs (I have 35 more to go). I had to use both diet and exercise so that I would lower my cholesterol (now 150, down from 282 – without medication), lower my blood pressure (now 102/78 without medication), lower my A1c (now 6.1, down from 7.2 without medication) AND lose weight. I am lucky that I quit smoking 3 years ago or smoking cessation would have been added to my to-do list. Obesity, lack of exercise, hyperglycemia and smoking are huge risk factors for heart disease and stroke and managing blood glucose only addresses the hyperglycemia. The guest speaker’s point was received loud and clear: If an diabetic does not lose weight, lower their cholesterol, stop smoking, and/or start exercising they will die from a heart attack or stroke; but, hey, their blood sugar will be on target.
I was diagnosed 10 months ago and just learning to control my blood sugar was all I could handle. About 3 months in I began the weight loss and exercising. You have to start somewhere with baby steps, one at a time. Tackling it all at once would have left me feeling overwhelmed and frustrated…… 2 emotions that are not helpful in the world of managing diabetes and preventing its complications. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires more than just monitoring your blood glucose. My suggestion is to create a timeline for your attack on diabetes. How many months will you focus on learning what foods you can eat and how they affect your blood sugar? When will you begin exercising (what kind, how often, etc)? Once you have that habit in place, when and how will you begin smoking cessation? Give yourself time to adjust to each new baby step and then take the next step. As you step in the ring to fight the good fight…. know there is hope; the proof is in the #’s….. 80% of diabetic complications are preventable! You will find many, many others at all stages of the marathon and most will want to help and encourage you; and, when you are ready to take the next step and add weight loss, exercise, and/or smoking cessation…… well, we will be here for that, too!
Yes, as diabetics we have to do so much more that just monitoring our BG to stay healthy and prevent complications…… but, the good news is that these complications, 80% of them, are preventable. I broke my #2 rule, no confontations regarding others’ posts….. but I felt the message was worth every word!
Have a wonderful weekend!
The Dishing Diabetic