A three pronged attack on diabetes

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By Grant J Everett

I wasn’t surprised when the doctor diagnosed me with Type-2 diabetes. After all, I had a tonne of risk factors: eating treat foods too regularly, minimal exercise, taking certain medications, family history, being overweight, and having mental health issues. The first clue was a blood count showing my bad fats were too high (diabetes isn’t purely about sugar). The test to confirm it was simple: they took blood, I drank some sugar water, and I waited two hours for a second blood test. My blood sugar levels (BSLs) had tripled as confirmation. 

As diabetes is chronic, this diagnosis spurred me to get my health in order. I manage it in three ways: exercise, a healthy diet, and medication. 

EXERCISE

By being more active I’m also hoping to lose weight from my midsection, increase my lung capacity and endurance, and generally get fitter. Exercise also allows your insulin to work more effectively, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces your risk of heart disease. 

DIET

Food-wise, I’ve been reining things in. No more ice cream binges or inhaling entire meat-lovers pizzas. Sugary drinks are a thing of the past. I have one alcoholic beverage once a week, but I use diet mixers. 

Rather than ditch my cookbooks on a bonfire, I just made a few adjustments. A good example is fettuccine boscaiola, a creamy pasta dish with bacon and mushrooms. As you’d assume, it’s not the healthiest of foods. My kinder version substitutes light thickened cream (half the fat) and lean shortcut bacon rashers. A mega-healthy alternative is a tomato-based sauce. Eating out has changed, too: instead of cheesy bacon fries as an entree followed by a rack of razorback ribs with mashed potato, I get steak with vegetables. I’m glad I don’t have to live on steamed celery and mineral water.

In addition to eating right, I also need to eat regularly, or my BSL can go so low that I have a sugar crash. Before I learned about sugar crashes, I thought these unpleasant experiences I’d been having were anxiety attacks. I would get lightheaded and dizzy and shake, and my body and mind would feel horrible. Now, all I need to do is have some delicious medicine: jelly beans. Chewing up half a dozen works wonders in minutes. If only all meds were so tasty… The problem is, they only work as medicine during  a sugar crash. At all other times jelly beans  are lollies. Orange or apple juice will also work.

MEDICATION

I’m taking medication to manage my glucose levels. While this should minimise complications down the track, meds are to be used in conjunction with healthy eating and physical activity, not as a substitute. The GP warned me this pill could lower the effectiveness of some medications like the ones that I take, so I need to stay vigilant in case my mental health slides. Alternative medications are available. 

MANAGING MY DIABETES

And how am I supposed to know if the medication and lifestyle changes are working? Getting my blood sugar levels (BSLs) checked is the best way to confirm that my lifestyle changes are having an effect. The desired blood sugar level range is between four and six, and staying around this level will help prevent many complications. Your healthcare provider can help with blood sugar level monitoring, or you can purchase your own testing kit. 

Another way of telling if something is up is that if my blood sugar level is through the ceiling, my body will crave water to dilute the glucose in it. So if I get dry-mouth that won’t go away no matter what, I’ll review what I’ve eaten and keep an eye on it in future. 

DISCLAIMER: Everybody is different, so it is important to consult a doctor to discuss diabetes and any major changes you may need to make to your lifestyle.

Sources:

www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/managing-type-2

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