Chronic Health Conditions
What's so great about chronic health conditions?
By Ilene Raymond Rush
October 2009 — With American Diabetes Month about to arrive in November, dLife is preparing to launch a campaign built around the slogan "It's my time…", as in, "It's my time to log my blood sugars more regularly" or "It's my time to take exercise seriously."
In the spirit of this effort, I've decided to announce a vow of my own, "It's my time to start appreciating the benefits of having to deal with chronic health conditions every damn day."
O.K, O.K. I can hear the protests already. How weird am I, anyway? Who, after all, celebrates the burden of Type 2 diabetes—the quarterly A1C blood tests, the constant carbohydrate monitoring, the everlasting need for aerobic workouts?
It's easy to agree on the many negatives involved in chronic health conditions like Type 2 diabetes. As any reader of this column knows, I love a good chocolate mousse as much, or more, as the next guy.
Yet, as counterintuitive as it may sound, people dealing with chronic health conditions are some of the healthiest people I know.
Let me be clear. I certainly didn't ask for diabetes, any more than my husband of twenty-six years asked, at age 57, to have a mild heart attack. In an ideal world, we would both be totally healthy, with no wrinkles or aches. We'd be able to down ice cream sundaes with extra fudge topping and to leap tall buildings in a single bound (and he would have a full head of hair and I would resemble Angelina Jolie).
But since that lifestyle is pretty much out of the question, we have made peace with the lives we have. We faithfully take our medications, we board our recumbent bike several times weekly, we lift weights. Like millions of others, we cut down on fats, we avoid white flour, and we try to limit ourselves to one or two glasses of red wine a night.
Pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself.
My hubby has reversed some of the blockage in arteries that might have lead to another attack; my last A1C was 6.0 with a cholesterol reading of 147 (the HDL good stuff is off the charts). I've traveled from a snug size 12 to a size 8, and he has had to replace all of his 36-inch waists for trim 34's.
Would we be as healthy without our problematic health issues?
This is where it gets sticky: I'm not sure.
What I do know, however, is that before my husband's heart attack, it was no problem for him to polish off a box of Oreos in a single sitting. Before I had Type 2 diabetes, I exercised, but without my current intensity. Now I realize that with every jump and pump I am avoiding future complications and earning extra calories.
So am I recommending that everyone should develop a chronic health condition before they start to take better care of themselves?
Of course not.
And yet, as our country sits on the verge of instituting our first national health insurance program, it strikes me that no matter what kind of plan we eventually adopt, the best and surest way to keep costs low will involve preventive and responsive health care.
In this environment those of us with chronic health conditions like Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease are ahead of the game. We already understand that if we can overcome our denial and fear and embrace our circumstances, there are important and valuable choices that many of us are busy making every day.
All of which makes me oddly appreciative of my Type 2 diabetes because it's made me the saner, happier, and healthier person that I am today.
Pretty weird, but true.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...