Time for another repurposed post, which I originally wrote back in February 2011. It was one of my post popular articles at the time, and for a pretty good reason if you ask me. I’ve left a few comments because their sites are still active, but since this articles originally had nearly 60 comments on it, see what’s left and that tells you about the rate that people have left blogging… while others have taken their place. Now, let’s talk about… diabetes…
Diabetes is the fastest growing disease in the world today. It’s considered as a somewhat controllable disease for the majority of people because if most people could control their weight and live a healthier lifestyle they have a chance to stave it off altogether, or at least reduce their reliance on things such as medications.
I’ve written enough about my being diabetic on this blog to depress everyone. Yet I feel that I need to write about it again. So, other than the links I’ve included in this post, I figured I’d throw out 10 reasons why you really don’t want to be diabetic, and should think yesterday about starting to try to life a healthier lifestyle. However… since this is a repurposed post, I’ve decided to add one more reason why you don’t want to be diabetic, because it’s extremely important, and something I’m suffering now.
By the way, you can be healthy and still get it for many reasons; just wanted to make that clear. Here we go:
1. The testing.
I have to check my blood glucose at least once a day, sometimes as much as 3 times a day. I used to have to prick my finger to check my glucose, and even 9 years afterwards I’d still flinch whenever I did it; just couldn’t get used to it.
Now I check it through my hand. It almost doesn’t hurt unless I do it incorrectly. Turns out technology has changed a bit and made the lancets (the things that go through your skin to release the blood; doesn’t that sound icky lol) much thinner than they used to be. I still use it on my hand though because I was still flinching from memories of the past… which makes the people at the diabetes clinic I go to laugh every time I visit them. I have to test and remember to test because of #2.
2. The numbers.
In the early days, when I was first diagnosed, once I brought my glucose down I’d check and my numbers would look great and I’d think that maybe I’d just had an episode because I was eating badly. I finally got way more control of my glucose (some say blood sugar, but the term bothers me for whatever reason) in 2014 once I started walking a lot more and watching what I ate better.
However, even now I have problems controlling the numbers, most of the time low numbers that wakes me in the middle of the night in the process of crashing (that means your glucose is dropping, your heart starts beating harder, and you need to drink or eat something to get it headed back in the right direction); that’s never pleasant. I occasionally have higher numbers as well, but these days it’s almost always close to the high number of my safe range, so that’s no big deal.
3. The lethargy.
Luckily I don’t have to deal with lethargy much anymore, but it’s serious enough to bring up. This happens when your numbers drastically go up in a short period of time, which used to happen to me all the time before I started tracking my food during the day. When the lethargy hits you it’s like you’re going to fall asleep and never wake up. Okay, it’s not always that bad, but it can be scary.
If I happen to eat the wrong thing, I can become quite lethargic within an hour; sometimes within 30 minutes. It’s a good thing I work from home because there’s no stopping the nap. Sometimes, it’s going to be a major effort to wake up. My scariest episode was being down for almost 4 hours and having my ex have to help me wake up when she got home from work; at least I’ve made sure that’s never happened again.
With that said, when we look at #4, food, a few new things are going to be added that most people never think about.
4. The food.
Food becomes tough to gauge, especially as I’ve gotten older. If I eat broiled or baked chicken without the skin I can do fairly well, even if I put some sauce on it. Protein in general terms helps keep me more alert. But it’s not perfect, and no one can continually just eat protein. Well, maybe some can, but diabetics can’t. Turns out you actually need a mixture of protein and carbohydrates to keep your glucose in the safe zone. Too much protein is definitely going to bring on lows during the night. Too much carbohydrates… depending on when you eat them and how much, will either drive your glucose high and then drop fast. I’ll come back to this point.
Gauging things like rice is a difficult thing; believe it or not, the same goes for a serving of mixed vegetables, which supposedly has more starch in them (who knew?), and thus helps make one tired. Trying to find the right diet can feel mind numbing sometimes.
Most people think that carbohydrates, mainly sweets, is the driving force behind diabetic problems. Turns out that’s not always the case; something I have learned within the last few months I now have to monitor more than in previous years is too much salt at one time, something I’d reduced consumption of and handle well at home, but now realize I have to be cautious of some restaurant foods.
I went to a restaurant where the meal I had for the very first time confused my senses. I couldn’t mentally figure out what needed to be added to it, so I went with my intuition and added soy sauce to it… wrong thing to do! Turns out the meal was actually overly salty already (tried something new at a Japanese restaurant; bad idea this time around), and I added more salt to it. It also had ramen noodles, which I’d never eaten before.
I made it home, but 30 minutes later I was in bed fast asleep, and it lasted for almost 3 hours. I woke up groggy and confused, but went on Facebook to talk about the meal. That’s when I learned (after 25 years; ugh!) that a heavy dose of salty food will trigger high glucose numbers. Did I learn my lesson? Nope! The next day I went to another new restaurant, knew the soup was way too salty but ate it anyway… and once again came home and immediately went to bed. This time I learned my lesson and haven’t “quite” had that happen again. Though I’ve gotten really good at tracking sodium and carbs at home, maybe I need to stay away from too many new restaurants.
5. The portions.
Sometimes the food is fine, but trying to figure out proper portions can be a trip; at least it used to be. In 2014, when I got my first Fitbit (thanks Mom), I also downloaded Myfitnesspal to my smartphone so I could track my meals. Not only did it track calories, but it tracked carbs, protein and many other things including sodium.
I never missed a day until last November, when they changed their rules of participation added to the rules that if you were connected to Fitbit you had to allow them access to everything you had on Fitbit, which included all information on the people you’re connected to. I wrote to them to talk about it, but they told me those were the new rules and wouldn’t be changing. So… being me… I dropped them the day I got that last message and started using Fitbit to track my food intake.
It’s not as overly comprehensive as Myfitnesspal is and here and there I have to guess-timate (I know it’s not a word but I’m using it anyway) what’s closest to what I’ve eaten; sometimes if it’s from a restaurant I’ll have to add it to the custom foods area and type the calories and other nutritional information I can find online so that I can add it as a meal and calculate the calories better (there’s going to be a full article on Fitbit food tracking on the way; watch out for it). I might give up some information on myself and my benefit, but I’ll never give up the privacy of my friends and those I’m connected to; I got your back!
I’ve jumped right to this one because I’m on insulin; I talk about medications in general next. I started off being prescribed to insulin pins like what you see in the image above. I take a slow acting 70/30 mix, but it’s still insulin. What that means is 30% of it works fast, then the other 70% works slowly throughout the rest of your day or night.
I don’t use the pins anymore because when I was using those my ex was working at one of the local hospitals, so the box of pens only cost $15, and the box almost lasted a full month. Once she left, the pens cost around $400; that wasn’t happening. I mentioned it to my endocrinologist, who suggested I try the insulin at Walmart, which I didn’t know about at the time.
They have both the 70/30 and the regular insulin; the 70/30 costs $24.95 a vial, and these days it lasts me 4-5 weeks; isn’t that great? Sure, you have to buy syringes, but a prescription for syringes (and shopping around for the best price) might cost another $10 – $20, depending on whether you’re getting 100 or 200 at a time (in some states you don’t need a prescription to buy syringes, and it’s only $10 if you buy them at Walmart). That means your overall cost might be just under $50 a month going in that direction; compared to insulin pens, it’s a steal! The caveat is that you might have one of those physicians who’s totally against you using it for reasons you can research if you’re interested in trying it. Apparently it might not work for everyone, but it works perfect for me and I’m glad, because there’s no way I’d be able to afford paying what’s now upwards of $700 for a box of pens, whether or not you have insurance… ouch! Even my current endocrinologist isn’t overly happy that I’m taking it, but it’s working and it was her predecessor at the same place who recommended it.. so that’s that!
The thing to know is that insulin actually promotes weight gain; isn’t that an interesting conundrum. Actually, it promotes hunger, which is why it’s recommended that you eat around the same time you take it… which I don’t do as often as I should. I take insulin twice a day; morning or afternoon and in the evening, usually after 10. Still, if you’re tracking what and when you eat, you’ll learn how to deal with insulin better… probably not perfect, since I haven’t perfected it yet, but much better than you were beforehand. Never feel ashamed if your physician says you need to start taking insulin; living is always better than the alternative.
There are oral medications one can take, but trust me they’re a crap shoot at best. I was put on 6 different medications before my doctor got me on the one I take twice a day now, Metformin, along with the insulin. Here’s the thing about oral medications; if you forget to take it (or run out of it when your clinic doesn’t return the call the pharmacy makes in time when they’re renewing the prescription; ugh!), it could take up to a week for it to run out of your system before you start having problems; whew! Sometimes medications have been recalled because some medications are always dangerous to someone; I’m glad I was never put on any of those, but you just never know when a study will come out and throw you for a loop.
There can also be other benefits you learn about over time. It turns out that not only can metformin help you ward off dementia or Alzheimer’s, and bunch of other maladies. I’m not going to list them all, but check out this link to see how beneficial it is. I’m not sure about other diabetes medications, but I’ve been taking this one since around 2007, so I’m feeling pretty good right now. 🙂
You have to exercise at some point to help bring your glucose down; there’s no getting around it. But exercise can have this interesting thing that can mess you up. For instance, it turns out that one isn’t supposed to do strenuous exercise if one’s glucose is too high; I violated that one often before I knew about it. Turns out that if you injure yourself if your glucose is too high, pooling blood due to injury is a bad thing.
These days the only real exercises I do involve walking and stretching, but mainly walking. I walk between 6 and 12 miles a day, depending on the weather, my mood, or how much sleep I’ve gotten. My daily goal in 5 miles a day, which I haven’t missed since I got my Fitbit in September 2014. In my mind, when I reach that then anything else is gravy. Most of the time I average between 7 and 10 miles a day (I have a big house inside which gives me a great walking space).
As for stretching, I started doing more of that in 2019 after I was in a car crash and went to physical therapy for a while learning stretching exercises (don’t get me started on that story…) for my shoulder. I’d already been doing stretching exercises for my legs because I had an issue with something called an IT band in my left leg that I had to do stretching to help keep it at bay (now that pain is totally gone; yay!). Unless you try stretching into positions you’re not fit or in shape to do, it’ll help keep you flexible and it still burns a few calories here and there. All exercises are generally good for you, but if you’re diabetic you have to be wary of certain exercises at certain times; that can feel limiting.
9. Thirst & Bathrooms.
Talk about a weird loop in one’s life. Diabetics can be abnormally thirsty sometimes. This means they drink a lot of water and liquids… which I tend to do, mainly in binges. Yet they can also have to go to the bathroom often, whether they’re drinking lots of liquids or not.
Drinking too much water can force your kidneys to work too hard, and as a diabetic they don’t filter all that well so it puts a lot of stress on them. Not drinking enough water and going to the bathroom a lot means your body is losing fluids, of course, but that means you overheat and thus will have other issues, so you need to make sure you drink enough water. But you never know which one will come to pass sometimes. For me, I drink a lot of liquid in the evening, and thus go to the bathroom a lot in the evening as well. If I drink tea or soda in the morning, I’m going to be going to the bathroom every 10 to 15 minutes eventually; it’s the oddest thing.
I also track how much I drink during the day. At one time, I thought drinking lots of water was a good thing to do; then I learned that people can “drown” internally from drinking too much too often… which I learned the day I drank 21 cups of water after walking about 15 miles, shared the info on Facebook, and learned that even marathon runners aren’t supposed to drink more than 14 cups a day. Lesson learned; see, Facebook isn’t always evil. lol These days, I might hit 14 cups a few times a year; I mainly drink between 8 and 10 cups a day since I pay more attention to it.
10. Medical issues
I moved my previous “last” point to #11 so I could talk about potential medical issues that having diabetes can bring your way if you don’t take care of yourself. I’ll start with mine, because it can be the one major problem that could mess with your life is it gets too bad.
In my case, I developed what’s called “neuropathy” in my feet. I’m not going to dig deep into what neuropathy is, which is why I added the link above. But I will tell you that my version of neuropathy means my feet are numb, though I still feel throbbing pain, they’re always cold, and the strangest thing is that it doesn’t bother me when I’m walking but bothers me constantly when I stop. The pain goes from mild to intense, the bottom of my feet are worse than the top… and for whatever reason my left foot is worse than my right.
I’m lucky to have started going to a podiatrist when it was “relatively” new; about 6-9 months after I started having issues with it. That’s another reason why I had to get control of my diet, because if you can’t keep your numbers in check it can get progressively worse… which it did for about 3 years or so.
It goes after extremities first for some people, though it might not stop there. My dad’s twin ended up having one of his legs amputated from the knee down. A cousin had one leg amputated and his other foot amputated because both got to a point where they looked like wood (literally), and the doctors hoped amputation would save his life. It didn’t, and he passed away a few months afterwards. In his case, he was type 1, but he’s gotten into the habit of not taking his medications anymore once he got to his mid 20’s.
I consider myself lucky that I was paying attention; it could have gone to my hands, and I wouldn’t have been able to write as much as I have over all these years. Neuropathy can affect other areas as well, but for most of us losing the ability to walk or use our hands would feel like our lives had ended… which could possibly happen.
The other news; that’s the “lucky” disease, because you actually know it’s coming when you feel it. Diabetes leads to many other things such as heart disease, kidney failure, comas, even dementia. Dad’s complication was kidney failure, and he was on home dialysis for the last two years of his life, though that’s not what eventually took him away from me. Still, one night while in the hospital he was moved to another floor, and it turns out the nurses didn’t know how to hook up the machinery and didn’t call anyone to help them; the next day Dad was in a horrific state, and I pitched a fit about it, including speaking to one of the executive vice presidents.
Meanwhile… neuropathy wasn’t my first issue. I was diagnosed because I started having problems seeing road signs when driving home from work. I got a ticket because I was going too fast in a work zone after eating lunch, though I couldn’t see the sign and never noticed it was there. Since I’d had an eye appointment only a couple of months previous, it didn’t make sense. I went to see the ophthalmologist, who tested me again… and said I might have diabetes.
After that, I went to my doctor who confirmed it. Then I went to an ophthalmologist, who confirmed it further and warned me that continually having very high glucose readings could lead to blindness. I got better, but even that wasn’t enough to put me on the road to eating better on a consistent basis. It took some years, but now my eyes are much better and any problems diabetes caused have disappeared (I do have a cataract in my right eye, but that’s more of a family thing and has nothing to do with diabetes).
Nothing I’ve said is meant to be a scare tactic; it’s truth, it happens, and you don’t want to ever have to deal with any of it.
The more you learn about diabetes, the more scared you get. I’ve only touched on some of the simple stuff, which you might find unbelievable. I have to be checked twice a year by my endocrinologist to make sure my fingers, toes, feet and legs aren’t starting to get numb all the time; I see my podiatrist twice a year as well unless I start having issues, which has cropped up here and there; then I see him more often. These days I only see the ophthalmologist once a year; whew!
Most diabetics leave this earth because of heart problems, without even knowing they were diabetic because they ignored the signs that are always there. We tend to put stress on our bodies in many different ways, but many of us were also taught not to run to the doctor for “every little thing.” Let me tell you, rapid heartbeats are scary; night sweats are scary, and I’ve experienced both (at least the night sweats have been conquered). You probably don’t want to know about the chills that sometimes comes without warning, and there’s nothing you can do about them; shower, blankets, heaters, nothing except wait them out, which can take hours. Not fun at all.
I implore you to be proactive on this bad boy where your health is concerned. Go to your doctor if you’re feeling off, and let them test you for it; getting it early is a big deal. Work on some kind of eating plan that helps you create balance with your meals; yes, you can still have dessert, even if it ends up being less than you’re used to. Work out even a little bit, because it all helps (walking is easy). And learn more about the symptoms before you get it, then especially afterwards if you get it.
There are lots of things that say they can get you under control, even “cure” you. Nothing cures it, but it can be managed. However, if you can avoid it… do that! And to prove how serious I am about this, and how much I care… this article is now 3 times longer than the original. Please take care of yourselves.