Sunday, February 05, 2017

Diabetes - My Story

This story starts many years ago; but came to a head in the summer of 2016.

Although I felt absolutely fine in myself, I had one major complaint.  
I was constantly needing a wee! Whilst this had been going on for some time, it took a visit to Bournemouth for me to finally take action.

It wasn’t possible to complete the journey down the motorway without me needing to stop for a ‘comfort break’ at least twice.  Then, at the beach, I’d be back and forth from the loo every couple of hours!  Not to mention ‘disappearing’ when at the house.

I arranged to visit the doctor, had a chat, and he took some blood, for testing.

One of the tests was for the level of hbA1c in my blood.
This is the technical term for glycated haemoglobin; in other words, how much sugar is attached to the blood cells.
In normal people the figure is 42mmol/l (millimols per litre) or below.

The reading for my hbA1c was 102!  
There you have it.  
The answer to my problems.
I have Type 2 Diabetes.

Within a week I visited the nurse, and she spent a long time explaining all the symptoms and side-effects of diabetes, the do’s and don’ts, along with what we would be doing to reduce the effects and, more importantly, reduce that large reading.

There are many symptoms of diabetes.
For me, it started with the constant urinating… let’s qualify what I mean by constant.  I was going to the loo every 2 hours!  On average, 10 times every day!  However, there were two other major effects; that of lethargy and extreme thirst.  
I was frequently tired, had difficulty staying awake at work (not good) and driving long distances was a trial; not least because I’d need the loo.  

The nurse prescribed Metformin, a diabetes drug, which I’ve been taking twice a day.  I was advised to exercise, and lose a little weight.  I should add that I wasn’t massively overweight; in fact, when she first saw me, her initial reaction was “you don’t look like someone who has diabetes”!  
Ain’t that just typical! 
Along with all the advice, I was given a glucose monitoring kit, to check my levels on a regular basis.
The one thing I would say about checking glucose is that whilst it gives a good indication, the results are transitional.  It is just at that moment in time.
Sometimes, I’ve had really good readings, and other times, I can’t work out why they’re high!

For those that don’t have experience of diabetes, or know anyone living with it, describing it is not something that can be done quickly; but I’m going to try and sum it up.

We have blood cells racing round our bodies, providing energy and nutrients as needed.  When we eat, the sugar gets absorbed into the blood stream, and gives us the energy we need.  
Well, in a normal person, yes.

With me, the sugar couldn’t get absorbed into the blood cells.  It was knocking on the door, but the cells wouldn’t let it in!  The consequence of this is not only could I not get the energy that I needed, but the sugar levels were building up with nowhere to go.
OK; they did have somewhere to go - out.  In my wee!  And because I was going so often, I would feel thirsty, so I would be drinking more, which as you can now see became a vicious circle - I needed to wee again!

Once I started taking Metformin, the blood cells ‘unlocked', allowing the sugar to enter, therefore increasing my energy levels and reducing my need to wee.  What’s more, this change happened virtually overnight.  It was amazing.

As you may have gathered, apart from the medication, managing diet is one of the key aspects to controlling type 2 diabetes.  
Sugar is the ‘enemy’.  By that I refer to glucose; added sugar.  Food made with sugar.  
Sucrose, the natural sugar found in fruit and veg is not bad, but must be controlled.

The other ‘baddie’ is carbohydrates.  These turn to sugar in the body, so reducing carb intake is very important.  Vegetables that grow underground are not as good as those over-ground.  Bananas and pineapple are very high in sugar, but berries are much lower.  
It’s been a complete re-education and I’ve been very careful to watch what I’ve been eating, allowing myself an occasional treat.

I bought a cross-trainer, which I've been using daily for the last 3 months, and not only has it raised fitness levels, and I’ve lost a little weight, but this has helped to reduce my latest reading to an encouraging 53.  F
Another benefit is that the cross-trainer isn’t just for me, so fitness levels at home are increasing all round!

How long have I been suffering with this?
I think it’s been about 7 years!!  
I say ‘think’ because quite honestly I don’t know!  I thought it was all normal!  It crept up on me; but the more I look back on my symptoms, the more I realise that’s what it must have been, all along.

Having read information about diabetes, it can take up to 10 years before it’s diagnosed.  Diabetes is not specifically hereditary; so you can't use that as a guide.  Certainly, in my case, none of my family has ever had it.  So I can't 'blame' them!

I consider myself lucky.
Knowing what was causing my symptoms was a major factor in feeling better about myself.
Thankfully, being type 2 means I’m not dependant on insulin.  With a controlled diet to keep my sugar intake to a minimum, and daily exercise, I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better.

Just imagine:
  • I can sit through a film at the cinema without needing to nip out.  
  • I can drive without worrying about needing the loo.  
  • I can make it through the day without fighting to stay awake; especially after meals 
  • I’m eating healthier.
  • I’m feeling fitter.
It's not just about the diabetes.
There are some other major factors to consider.  There is an increased risk of heart attacks, kidney failure and loss of sight.  Not to mention the threat of amputation, due to damaged nerve endings!
It can be quite scary stuff.

Diabetes is a silent killer.

Over 4 million people in the UK are known to have diabetes*.
It is thought there are another 549,000 adults with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes*

Are you at risk?  If in doubt, get a blood test.  At the very least, my advice is watch your weight and your diet.

There is masses of information on the internet; and are two of the sites I often refer to for information.

Do you suffer from diabetes?  How are you managing?  What do you do to control the impacts?

*Source: from January 2015

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