Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote in his poem “Rainy Days” these famous words:
“Into each life some rain must fall”
On March 7th, during my yearly physical, a little rain fell on me because that is the day I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.
As bad as the announcement was, this was not a total shock. Not because I don’t eat healthy, exercise and watch my weight but because genetically the odds were in favor of me contracting this disease. My dad was diagnosed with it in his early 40’s and there were others in his family that died from complications of this disease (his mom and two of his brothers).
But even though I expected it, I was still in denial for the first couple of days. My active lifestyle and stellar annual physicals had lulled me into a false sense of security that I’d somehow cheat this disease even though I was hard wired to get it. And besides, I don’t fit the typical definition of someone who contracts Type II diabetes. I don’t smoke. I only drink water and avoid soft drinks and sweet tea (which is tough to do in the South!). I don’t eat sweets and in fact I don’t even like them. But that didn’t matter.
I must admit that I had made some lifestyle choices that weren’t the best over the past couple of years. I significantly dropped off from my normal exercise routine and to make matters worse, I didn’t reduce my carb intake which resulted in my putting on about 15 pounds. I also stayed up too late (blogging!) and didn’t get the amount of sleep I required which also contributed to my weight gain. But still, I was in descent health and could still run a mile without stopping which is better than a vast majority of Americans.
The fact still remained that I had this disease and now it was time for me to make lifestyle changes to combat the disease. Although this sounds harsh to some, my goal now is to die from something unrelated to Diabetes. In an effort to hold me accountable to that goal and to share my story with others who may be in a similar situation, I’ll start a new ‘Diabetes’ category on my blog and this first entry will catalog the start of my journey living with this disease and catalog the progress I’ve made so far.
I’m still in a learning mode about this disease and there are orders of magnitudes of information that I don’t know. The small lifestyle changes I’ve made over the past few weeks are only based on limited research on the internet and what I know about how my body responds to exercise and diet.
Unlike many who contract this disease, I’m not totally ignorant on a healthy lifestyle because I’ve been a runner since March of 1999. When I turned 30 I found myself about 20 pounds overweight and decided to do something about it and running was something that I immediately took to. I completed the Chicago Marathon in 2000 and ran 5-10 races a year up until a couple of years ago so I know how to train and fuel my body with good foods to keep my body in top shape.
Within the last few weeks, here are the changes I’ve made as well as some of the existing things I continued in an effort to reduce my blood sugar levels.
- I started running or cycling 5 days a week (30-60 minutes for running and 1-2 hours cycling).
- For my lunches on the weekdays I eat only a veggie sub from Subway.
- I started taking one aspirin (325 mg) each day after my lunchtime run.
- I now get 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
- My meals are now smaller and more frequent and my daily meals look something like this – a small breakfast (oatmeal or breakfast sandwich), a mid morning snack of fruits/almonds/berries, veggie sub for lunch, a mid afternoon snack of fruits/almonds/berries and then a modest healthy dinner at home.
- I restarted my daily dose of Acai berry juice (this is my favorite). I used to drink this daily when I was exercising more regularly but then stopped it when my exercise dropped off. This is not only a great tasting beverage but I find it has many beneficial health benefits as well.
- I continued to take 2 multivitamins per day (I use these).
- I started Metformin which is a standard entry level Diabetes drug. Fortunately, I have not experienced the side effects of this medicine and as I enter into care of an Endocrinologist, my medicine and dosage may change but for right now, I think Metformin has been very beneficial to me over the past few weeks.
- I limited myself to one alcoholic drink per day.
The graph below represents my daily blood sugar measurements (twice per day – out of bed and before dinner) over the past month. The red dots show when I started to take Metformin (staring with one pill per day with the first red dot and then two pills per day after the two red dots).
As an engineer, I’m fascinated with data and love the challenge of trying to figure out what process inputs affect the process output so I’ve enjoyed charting my blood sugar measurements after making various lifestyle/medicine changes. You can see there was a lag of a couple of days when I started Metformin and the step function drop in blood sugar. You can also notice the steady trend down in measurements and, more importantly, the less variation in measurements as I’ve progressed.
Now that I know the symptoms of this disease, I realize that I’ve been living with this for over a year and thankfully I got this wake-up call early enough to hopefully do something about it. I will post regularly about Diabetes as I learn more and when I can share my progress and the lifestyle changes that I make that I feel have had an effect on my blood sugar. I will be candid and tell the good with the bad in hopes that others may benefit from my sharing or maybe others who are more experienced battling this disease can counsel me on ways I can improve my health.