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!
My photo adventures in Florida