My hot topic today is diabetes and the issues that surround those that either have it or in danger of getting the disease. The question I have is whether anyone who isn’t affected by it directly truly understands what it is? Presently, I have three people in my life who have Type 2 diabetes and I’m ashamed to say I truly don’t have a complete understanding of it. Ashamed because these people are important to me and I should know better.
I recently attended an event hosted by Healthy 100, which is an organization that was "created by Florida Hospital to educate and motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyles.” The honorary guest speaker was everyone’s favorite Southern Belle, Paula Deen. I must say, she is every bit as charming in real life as she is on television. Paula shared her story about discovering she was a Type 2 diabetic and learning how to maintain her diabetes through moderation, healthy eating, and medicine. Interestingly enough, she spoke some diabetic lingo that initiated applause from the crowd, but left me feeling clueless (I still clapped, of course).
So, I’ve done a little research since then.
Let’s first address the term Type 2 as it relates to diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) a total of 25.8 million people have diabetes and Type 2 is the most common form. Basically, what’s happening with Type 2 is that the body isn’t producing enough insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that allows our body’s cells to absorb glucose from the blood. Almost everything we eat is used to create glucose and it ends up in our blood to fuel the cells in our body that need it. It’s the insulin that regulates those blood glucose levels. Where Type 1 is a lack of insulin produced in the body, Type 2 is persistently high levels.
For those of you left saying, “whuuut...?” here is a handy video to explain insulin’s job a bit better.
Okay, we should all now be aware that it’s insulin that takes the sugar from the blood to transfer it to cells and without it there’s an overload in our blood as it's not being distributed.
Back to Paula - one thing she mentioned, which caused a thunderous applause, was that her A1C level was at 5.8 on her last doctor’s visit. My lovely friend I invited to come with me to the event, a Type 2 diabetic, was just about to explain when Marti White, who was on stage with Ms. Deen, elaborated what A1C meant. Essentially, this is a test that measures the average blood glucose for the past three months. ADA compares it to that of a baseball player’s season batting average as it illuminates a diabetic person’s success, in addition to making certain their treatment is working.
Based on some of the sites I’ve visited, the A1C, or hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), test on the average, non-diabetic person can range from 4% - 5.6% with anything higher indicating a risk, or actuality of, diabetes. My friend who was with me explained that number can vary as your doctor may want you to stick to a level based on your age or body type.
Paula also told a story of how her blood sugar level reached 139 about seven hours after a #2 cheeseburger meal, followed a few hours later by a fat-free yogurt topped with marshmallow cream. It was implied by her sudden pause and guilty glance toward the audience that the topping wasn't so fat free. But, in her defense she was on the go running errands and, as she so cleverly explained, the #2 meal is easy to eat while driving. Who hasn't reasoned their way into that excuse? The difference is that diabetics have to be more careful as this sugar level was high for her. However, she was delighted that after walking a mile she brought the level down almost by 100. What she clearly demonstrated was that exercise is essential for a diabetic as it brings down those high sugar numbers. What’s considered high? Glad you asked.
Based on the information from the ADA website, before a meal, the blood sugar should read anywhere from 70 to 130. After a meal, the number can reach up to 180 on the glucose meter. Yet remember, the levels are based on what a health care provider has recommended based on A1C percentage and body type. I have experienced both high and low blood sugar levels with two family members. The side effects of either of these can be very disconcerting and downright scary if you don’t know what’s going on. Going with the baseball theme, first up to bat is the low blood sugar scenario, also called hypoglycemia.
I’ve had numerous occurrences with one of my in-laws who, let’s just say, isn’t meticulous in regulating his blood sugar – at all. He rarely tests his glucose level and the blood sugar lowers to numbers that essentially make him incoherent. He gets confused and slurs his words – to put it plainly, it seems as though he's intoxicated. This was extremely scary for me in the past, as well as for others around him (outside of family), as it was confusing as to whether he required sugar or had too much. Again, ignorance on my part despite the frequency of this happening. Eventually, it was understood that he was in desperate need of sugar, therefore orange juice was always on hand.
And like with anything in life, there’s a yin with this yang, where the glucose levels are too high, hyperglycemia. My mother, who had not been previously diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (but warned) fell into a diabetic coma because her blood sugar levels were about 1200. Seems rather high does it? Well, it’s a little over a thousand where it should be! Her factors for getting diabetes were exceptionally poor diet, obesity, and lack of exercise. It was thought she wouldn’t live because she didn't come out of her coma for almost seven days. The list of her immediate health issues was super long, but for the most part she has made a full recovery, aside from now being a diabetic. I wish I could say she's consistently been receptive to treatment by watching her diet, checking her blood sugar levels, and exercising, but she's not. We'll call it a work in progress. You can only take them to the water so they say...
In all reality, it’s up to the individual to be responsible with their diabetic condition, however as a friend, or better yet, family member, we should all be informed and at the ready to help if needed. Considering the overwhelming amount of people who have diabetes, one must also know the myths associated with the disease as we don’t have to just be overweight or have a poor diet. Here are a few myths from the ADA website:
Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes.
I can’t say this is all there is to know, but I think it’s a start as understanding the Type 2 diabetes that affect those important me is absolutely essential. And, armed with this knowledge, I recognize that not only are my children susceptible, but so am I. Fortunately, we’re already aware that a healthy diet and exercise are an important part of our lives, so we’re slightly ahead of the game. We encourage our kids to try new foods (this by no way, shape or form means they eat them) and try to keep our kids active.
I'll leave you with Paula's thoughts about our kids and lifestyle today compared to yesteryear, which actually applies to my childhood. This is a video I recorded at Florida Hospital's Healthy 100 event on March 11, 2013.
Sites to both help with your understanding of diabetes and live a healthy lifestyle. If you have more to share, please do!
We are all filled with little memories of our childhood that somehow pop into our heads for whatever reason, but how much do we really remember? And if you do, how accurate are your memories? I can’t remember last week, much less what happened twenty-something years ago - but, in reality, we really don’t remember things exactly as they happened anyway, just how we imagined they did. It’s one of those scientific factoids.
This last Christmas, my dad and brother took all of our old VHS home movies and converted them to DVDs as a gift. I have to say it's been the best gift I’ve received - ever. The videos date back the late 80's when I was sixteen and have brought back moments that occasionally flow through my middle-aged brain. What’s remarkable is watching so many events I don’t even recall having the opportunity to remember. There are a lot of “I was there?” questions as I scrutinize each video.
There are about twenty DVDs in all that have captured not only the mundane moments, but the hilarity of many events that are only made funnier by tight acid-wash jeans and pointy shoulder pads. And what’s really amazing, if you can believe, is that the Husband wants to sit down and watch every single video with me. Yes, my Husband wants to watch home movies from my childhood. This alone could qualify him for sainthood, but sadly all the other things he does to get on my nerves nullifies it.
We did begin dating in 1989, a few years after the timeline of the videos and he’s actually in a few of them, but that’s not why he watches. He, like me, is fascinated with how much has changed over the years with family, clothing, cars, our voices, and most importantly, getting another chance to see those who have since passed away. However, my kids can't find me behind the oversized, plastic eyeglasses that are fashionably partnered with the silver braces on my teeth that I once wore. They have refused to watch more than a minute and seemingly don't want to acknowledge that I ever had a life before them. Ironically enough, I had forgotten that I did have said life and most grateful for the reminder.
The Husband has also made a valid point that because these home movies are decades old (mind you only two-ish), rather than just last week or last year, it intensifies the desire to watch each moment with fervent fascination. It’s hard to be nostalgic about your kid’s last birthday party video if you still have that red balloon string stuck in the ceiling fan, right? The very definition of nostalgia is a wistful yearning of some past period. In other words, how can you recognize the novelty of a special moment captured on film if it simply looks like yesterday?
With that in mind, I realized that I haven’t been videotaping any of the mundane or exceptionally special moments that my kids could appreciate twenty years from now. I have no excuse when you consider how easy it is to make videos now compared to when I was young. Here is the inexcusable truth when it comes to the ease of filming these days.
Even my current video camera is outdated with its 3" mini-discs compared to the a tiny memory card held by cameras these days. And, like most parents with multiple children born just before digital cameras were cool, I have tons of video tapes and photos boxed away for my first and just a few less for my second. When it comes to my third child, born in 2004, I have to pull out the computer as she came along right before I switched to a digital camera. All her video moments as a baby are essentially broken down into 1-3 minute snippets I "filmed" and stored on a computer’s hard drive, along with her photos.
This is not the same as twenty minutes of listening to stories told by grandma, hearing laughter from jokes being told by Cousin Jack or watching the joy in my parent's eyes when my brother walked for the first time. Those little snippets I took may still be special, but capturing the essence of the moment by extending the film time to include the atmosphere of the moment would make it immensely better.
I'm aiming to do a better job as the family historian having just recently finished watching the last of the DVDs my dad sent. Yet admittedly, I still fail to even use my fancy-schmancy 1080dp video slash 12.1MP photo camera that weighs virtually nothing. I may carry it everywhere with me, but I simply grab my iPhone so I can immediately bombard my family and friends with instant photos and video via email or the social media of choice. Does this mean all I have to do is tell my children to snuggle up to their computer and check out my Facebook page when they grow up?
Not if I can help it.
My photo adventures in Florida