But it's not all gloom and doom. In fact, type 2 diabetes is unique amongst diseases in that you, with a little education and a little effort, can usually keep it in control. It's a genie you can put back into the bottle. And you know what? If a gun were put to your head and you had to choose a chronic disease, I guarantee you, this is the one you'd want. When it's controlled, type 2 is as harmless as a hamster.
Because while out of control diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, the leading cause of blindness, the leading cause of nervous system damage, and the leading cause of amputations that can't be attributed to lawn mowers and car crashes; in control diabetes is the leading cause of absolutely frickin' nothing whatsoever.
Yep. That's right.
All diabetes does is make it hard to keep your blood sugar in check.
It's the high blood sugar that's toxic to every part and parcel of your body. Keep the blood sugar in check and your children will wait a looooooong time for their inheritance.
Of course, I'll admit that keeping your blood sugar where it belongs seems a bit like duck hunting at first: you're shooting at a moving target. After all, everything affects your blood sugar. What you eat. How you sleep. How stressed you are. What medications you take, and a million-and-one other factors both large and small. But you can do this, and your reward for a little bit of hard work and brain power is a long and healthy life. In fact, you might even have a longer and healthier life than someone without type 2 diabetes, because you will be better focused on your health.
Now, my job around here is to make things simple, so here's my simple recipe for keeping blood sugar in check: Test smart and test courageously. How easy is that?
Oh, and mind your table manners.
You'd never pass Mrs. Salt without Mr. Pepper, would you? Just as salt and pepper shakers travel together, so should blood sugar tests. Because a single blood sugar test is totally worthless and meaningless.
Trick question: If you are 327 mg/dL (18.16 mmol/L) after a meal, does that mean the meal was "bad" for you? If you said "yes," you're dead wrong. Because the correct answer is maybe. Or maybe not.
In fact, you don't know a damn thing about the meal, because an isolated number means diddly squat, nada, zip, zilch, absolutely frickin' nothing. Now, if you were 102 mg/dL (5.66 mmol/L) before the meal, then, yeah, that 327 is pretty bad. But if you were 469 (26.055 mmol/L) before the meal, then the 327 is a huge improvement and the meal was pretty darn good to you.
See why you need a pair of numbers to give context to the information from your meter?
So test in pairs: Before and after meals. Before and after exercise. Before going to sleep and after waking up. Don't freak out. I'm not asking you to do all of those every day, I'm just giving you some examples of pairs. If you can only get one strip per day, test every other day. It's better to have good information every other day than worthless information every day.
Now, I talked about courage. We all like to see those nice low numbers on our meters. I get that. But that's really not the name of the game, now is it? Your real mission is to seek out your highest numbers. Those are the ones that can hurt you. That can damage your kidneys. Rob you of your sight. Steal your limbs. Why would you want to hide from your high numbers? Don't you want to know that they're there? Don't you want to know where they are, and what caused them? Don't you want to fix them, or better still, prevent them from ever happening again?
So yes, take your pill. But test your blood sugar. In pairs. Look at the numbers. Think about what the numbers are telling you. Keep doing what works. Change what doesn't work.
If you ignore your type 2 diabetes, if you park your tail on Medical Cruise Control, you risk becoming a victim of type 2's fury. Of being jumped by the mountain lion.
But if you pay attention to your type 2 diabetes, it will just become diabetes, too.
Wil Dubois is the author of four multi-award-winning books about diabetes. He is a PWD type 1, and is the diabetes coordinator for a rural non-profit clinic. Visit his blog, LifeAfterDX.
Read more of Wil Dubois' columns here.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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