Well today’s the day we diabetics get our own day, so let me say HOORAY! Ok that’s a bit much, for diabetes is an insidious disease that can have far reaching consequences. I thought that today is MY day, I would give you all a lecture about how to live your life to prevent type 2 diabetes. 1 in 4 people will develop diabetes in their life, that’s a fact. Trust me from my personal experience that it’s definitely not a good way to live your life for it impacts it with everything you do, and there’s no escape once diagnosis is achieved, except if you have gestational diabetes, and even then sometimes it will stay on in your body. Diabetes has an impact on every cell in your body, so listen to Aunty Emily and pay attention.
Essentially, diabetes is a condition where the body cannot produce insulin, which transports the sugar you eat across from your bloodstream to your muscles to be used as energy. The symptoms include;
- Excessive weight loss over a short period of time (months).
- Unexplained weight gain (type 2)
- Excessive thirst (I was drinking up to 3 litres per day at the time of my diagnosis).
- Constant hunger that normal eating won’t satisfy (not I get up in the middle of the night and eat my sister’s chocolate bar that she thought I didn’t know she had).
- Passing a lot of urine (I practically lived on the toilet).
- Feeling lethargic (not ‘I just want a sleep-in because it’s the weekend’).
- Having cuts or wounds that refuse to heal.
- Blurred vision.
- Mood swings (I was ropeable apparently around the time of diagnosis).
- Headaches, dizziness, leg cramps.
I’m going to tell you you some of my story. Not all of it, because it’s been nearly 29 years, and there a lot of things I can say, but I think this will do for now. Talking about this is so very difficult for me, but I think the least I can do is try and tell you why I’m so passionate about diabetes prevention. It’s had an impact on my life that’s across the board, I have to monitor myself constantly, and be ever vigilant. I’m having 5 injections a day, and up to 5 blood tests where I have to use a small device, a bit like a trigger, where I press a button to release the spring-loaded mechanism, and it hurts. The injections aren’t too hard to perform, but I still find myself wincing even though I’ve had countless amounts. My everyday life has really hard because I started developing complications when I was 18 years old, because they start showing up about 8 years after diagnosis. I’ll get to that in a moment. I was ostracised at school because I was treated specially as I have things called hypos, in which there’s too much insulin in my body and I need sugar fast, or I can go into a coma fairly quickly. Many a diabetic has been taken for a drunk when this happens, as you lose your motor functions, making it hard to talk without slurring your voice, and very difficult to even attempt walking properly. I have to watch what I eat, as it’s even more important for me to get essential vitamins and nutrients, have low fat foods, and stay away from high sugar items like most cakes and sweets because they can make me go into the opposite of a hypo called hyperglycaemia. This can also put me into a coma, but this time it’s too much sugar or glucose in the blood, and I’ll experience the symptoms I’ve listed above. Anything can upset my sugar levels, from being ill to stress and the depression which has resulted from having diabetes, but that’s fairly common with us. I’ve now managed to tick almost all the complication boxes, so here’s a handy reference about what diabetes can do if you can’t control it;
- Blindness – I have background retinopathy, which results from pressure building up at the back of the eye in the tiny blood cells that break, causing the vion to b obscured. So far my eyesight is only blurry, but part of that is due to the cateract that’s in my left eye which I developed because of, you guessed it, the diabetes.
- Kidney problems – my kidney function is impaired, but it’s holding for now. The biggest cause of kidney failure is diabetes.
- Amputee – I had an accident 7 years ago where I broke my Fibula and Tibea by falling over. The bones couldn’t heal, so eventually I developed gangrene and my right leg was taken from below the knee. I was so annoyed because it was my driving leg, I thought if my horse was going to step on my foot and cause me to lose my balance, then the least thing would be to have it be my left leg!
- Gastroparesis – I can’t digest food.
- Lack of saliva, causing me to lose all my teeth, which is just so attractive when you’re 38 and female, and I’m still in the process of having them removed.
- Peripheral Neuropathy, an incredibly painful condition in the hands and feet where the nervous system is basically dying so there’s a lot of numbness, but perversely is also the opposite, where the nerves are sending signals and there is a a whole communication problems so the nerves are trying to be heard. Typing isn’t fun, nor is anything that demands touch, as the nerves will fire at random. Only Methadone can touch it, and I refuse because I’ve been there, done that, and I will not live my life drugged up to the eyeballs. So there!
- Hypothyroidism – also known as an underactive thyroid, which makes me put on weight easily.
- Sinus Tachycardia – in real language, a fast heart rate.
- High blood pressure.
Now that I’ve scared you all to death, I must stress that this is diabetes has developed in me, in my body. I’m like this way because of the nature of my family situation, when I was growing up I had a emotionally abusive father, and was producing a large amount of cortisol (adrenaline). That causes sugar levels to go very high, and it’s prolonged high levels that do the damage. Diabetes can be controlled in a normal environment, but every effort has to be made to support the person in question. Family and friends play a key role in ensuring the person has all the tools available to help manage their diabetes. There are definitely diabetics walking around who’ve been type 1 for 50 plus years, but they’re the lucky ones. There is actually an organisation in Australia who give out a medal to type 1 who been diagnosed for 50 years. Yes that’s right, a medal, and I’m going to do my best to get one! So how/why/when can you get it? You are considered ‘At Risk’ if you;
- Have someone in your family who has type 2 diabetes. It’s hereditary, in the genetics, so at least you’ll have someone to blame, unlike me as I have type 1 which I developed when I was 10 years old. Experts simply don’t know what causes the T cells in the immune system to suddenly attack the islets in the pancreas, but they’re constantly looking for the answer, and many promising studies are being conducted right now, but they need time.
- If you are inactive, overweight, eating unhealthy foods (such as high sugar and fat content), this is why countries like America and Britain have high incidences of diabetes.
- If you have high blood pressure, heart disease or high cholesterol.
If you have one or more of these things, there is a risk assessment tool that you can use, please go here, but also see your doctor if you’re concerned.
Now that’s quite scary when a lot of people are at risk, but guess what? Type 2 is preventable! That makes it all the more distressing, when you realise that such a prevalent disease is so very preventable. There’s a lot of support out there for people trying to reduce their risk of getting diabetes, and if I could possibly identify someone who could be at risk, I’d be there with bells on. Plus, every other kind of decoration available. If you believe you or a friend has problems with any of the above symptomology, share this article, and use the above tool It could save your life. If you have these symptoms and are concerned about it, please see your doctor as soon as possible. I’m not a health professional, I just happen to know my foe extremely well.
What are the positive things you can do to prevent type 2 diabetes? I’m afraid it’s the usual, exercise, and a healthy diet. It’s so important for your general health, let alone diabetes prevention. Your risk of major and minor health problems is dictated by what you eat and how you manage your exercise, it really comes down to that in the long run. I know nowadays there are a lot of people who are dealing with stress, a sedentary lifestyle because their job requires them to be behind a desk all day, and bad eating habits in a world that seems to have little time for anything. I urge you to make the choice to look after yourself, remember you’re going to have that body for your entire life, so it’s slightly difficult to trade in and get a new one. If it were possible, I’d have been there, again with the bells on, waiting whatever time necessary in order to get the tickets, and I’m sure my parents would have paid any price at all to take it from me.
This article was not to upset or depress you, rather to get you to contemplate the causes and prevention of diabetes. If you’re at risk, I want you to consider the future, not only for yourself but the ramifications of what would happen to your family in that situation. There are many type 2’s wandering around without knowing they’re diabetic at all, and unfortunately it’s in those early stages that the damage is done to your body, so prevention is a far better option than a cure that I do not believe I will see in my life time. My life is still rich and complex, as I’m at the stage where I love my existence, despite my problems or perhaps because of it.
If you’d like further information, go to Diabetes Australia or have a look at the Diabetes Australia Victoria. If you’re a newly diagnosed diabetic or the friend or family member of a diabetic I’ve provided a link to Diabetes Counselling Online, a site and service set up by a diabetic who saw the need for it.