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Guest Post: Diabetes Alert Day.

Today is Diabetes Alert Day.  What does that mean?  (Here - let the ADA help explain.)  Diabetes Alert Day points a spotlight on type 2 diabetes, encouraging those who are living with type 2 to take control and for those who may be at risk to get tested.  I'm really proud to be hosting my friend Rachel Baumgartel's words on SUM today.  Rachel is a passionate diabetes advocate with a type 2 voice, and you can find her online contributions just about everywhere:  on her personal blog Tales of Rachel, at Diabetes Daily, 'midterning' at Chronicbabe, and participating in the Diabetes 365 project on Flickr

She's offered to post about her own diagnosis with type 2, about being young and living with a chronic illness, and her encouragement to anyone who may be at risk to get tested.  

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Often I find myself jealous of people my age who are lucky enough to have one or more grandparents still living and still aware of their surroundings.
Rachel Baumgartel - thanks for guest posting today!
You see, I never knew my own grandparents. Both of my grandmothers passed away before my parents were even married. Both of my grandfathers passed away before I was old enough to notice.

Still, I grew up knowing that both Grandpa and Grandfather lived with type 2 diabetes in the last years of their lives and the condition likely contributed to their deaths. Grandpa, who adopted my father and his brother with my grandmother, took insulin, scaring off my much older siblings when he took out the needle. Grandfather, who never crossed me as being overweight in photographs, took one of the early oral diabetes medications in the 1970’s.

For whatever reason, this family history, both with the genetic connection and without, did not occur to me upon the first warning signs that arrived in the form of spilling sugar in my urine at a routine physical at age 25. Besides family history, I could knock off no fewer than three other risk factors for type 2 diabetes at that point – being borderline obese, exercising less than three times a week, and having borderline high blood pressure.

While I became more active and smarter about food choices after this pre-diabetes warning, I could not overcome an undiagnosed thyroid issue that slowed metabolism to a point where weight loss stalled and eventually caused all-day fatigue, which slowed my activity back down to a minimum. And so I ended up with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis less than four years after that annual physical.

By that time, genetics had made themselves more apparent with type 2 diabetes diagnoses for both my father, whose biological family history was unknown at that point, and my mother’s sister, who struggled with weight. Still, it baffled me how I could be diagnosed at 28 years old while they were in their sixties.  

(In fact, I found much more in common with young adults with type 1 diabetes who were buying houses and building careers than older adults with type 2 diabetes who had mortgages paid off and looking towards retirement. No wonder I am one of the few active type 2 members of the diabetes online community!)

As I grew more conscious of type 2 diabetes and its potential progression, I realized how much earlier this was caught for me with “only” a 6.4% A1C and how much earlier I could make necessary changes so that diabetes may not impact my life expectancy.  I managed to find my inner athlete and learned how to cook some tasty, yet healthy meals.  Six years later, the only change to my diet and exercise regimen has been metformin to increase sensitivity to my own body’s insulin.

Knowing the risk of type 2 diabetes and then knowing if it is time to start screening for it is of utmost importance for prevention of this type of diabetes or to avoid major complications if a diagnosis is made. Lifestyle factors such as weight and activity levels combined with family history and race produce risk levels.  That is what Diabetes Alert Day, a project of the American Diabetes Association, is all about – finding out what your risk might be.

Now I understand that most of Kerri’s readers are people with or parents of children with type 1 diabetes, but perhaps type 2 diabetes does happen to run in your family.  It is still important for you and/or your family members to take this quick and easy risk assessment. After all, while the disease process between the two main types of diabetes may differ, we all end up with the same potential complications that threaten to reduce our life expectancies.

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Thanks for posting, Rachel!  And for more information on Diabetes Alert Day, please visit the American Diabetes Association's website.

Comments

This hit home-that you relate better to young people with Type 1 than other adults with Type 2. Though I have neither, I test my blood sugar consistently, and I'm always on the lookout for lows. That makes me feel closer to the Type 1's my age than all the adults I know with my condition. And I'm at an extremely high risk for Type 2-being that my body makes extra insulin, decreasing insulin sensitivity. I've seen some 170's in the past month, and that scared me into thinking that it might be too late already to really get a handle on my diet. The worst part is that my father, who's had reactive hypoglycemia for forever, freaks out over 140's and never sees anything below 80, while I've seen as high as 180 and as low as 54. My own body is doing this to me, and there are few people who understand and/or can relate.

I wonder how the Type 1's react to your comment about feeling more able to be understood by them-because despite my carb counting and massive stashes of used test strips and winkies and juice boxes for lows, the PWD who are my age don't relate to me at all, and don't want to. My body makes its own insulin, and therefore I am not even close to one of them. Even though I understand what Kerri means by "sweaters on the teeth" and scary lows that you don't always recognize. Even though I've had nightmares from lows that still haunt me. Even though I've had the frustration of treating six lows "for no reason" in three hours. Still, I'm misunderstood and alone.

Maybe I'll take after Kerri and start my own blog.

Thanks for sharing, Rachel. I'm a T1, but have many family members with T2. It's a similar but different beast and both require a lot of commitment, changes and energy. Hopefully your story will help people overcome the "it can't happen to me, I'm too young" factor and take control of their health! There are still MILLIONS of Americans living with undiagnosed diabetes... See ya on Flickr

I wanted to comment on Miriam's comment. I'm sorry that you feel misunderstood by the Diabetes community, I hope that you are able to start your own blog and relate to others with reactive hypoglycemia. I think it is difficult for diabetics to relate to you because you are dealing with a different disease even though you have similar symptoms. While I certainly empathize with the feelings of highs and lows and the struggles of day-to-day disease management I don't expect to understand everything you are going through nor do I want you to say you know what it is like to walk in my shoes. I hope you don't take this as being mean or dismissing what you go through every day because I do understand the struggles of blood sugar control I just want you to be able to relate to a group of people that can relate to reactive hypoglycemia rather than feeling dismissed and misunderstood.

Rachel -
I love your post, I love your blog, & I love you! Yep, I'm a type 1, but I always learn so much from all branches of my diabetes family!

Thanks Rachel. I'm a type 1 (late onset) and it's difficult to find PWDs to identify with because I had to learn everything in my twenties, rather than as a kid, but my needs are totally different than the adults with Type 2. So adult support groups for the newly diagnosed didn't fit, and neither did the JDRF sessions I went to where I could identify more with the parents rather than the kids with diabetes. I was wondering what experiences you have with your family members with diabetes. My dad is not very engaged with his Type 2. Do you find that your advocacy is sometimes contrasted to the disengagement of other PWDs you know in your personal life?

Hi Karen in Michigan, you sound like me. I was diagnosed with type 1 when I was 38 and have more in common with other type 1's and totally different tracks than the type 2's I know. It is hard changing all the habits of a life time!

Miriam> Just to clarify, I meant that I have more in common with younger adults with type 1 when it comes to dealing with diabetes on top of all of the other normal life stuff that happens in the 20's and 30's regardless of a chronic condition.

Karen in Michigan> My dad takes his meds and watches carbs some, but that's about it. I definitely feel that between my experience being diagnosed younger and his being diagnosed older, I see the difference in "teaching younger dogs new tricks". I hope (and advocate) that other younger people with type 2 can also make the changes that minimize the condition's impact on life expectancy.

I can totally relate.
I was diagnosed as a kid, but only took control of it just months ago. So I'm an old dog learning the trick's that it didn't learn when it was a puppy.
I can relate to Type 2's relatives. My paternal grandmother, my mother's sister and my mother in law, all overweight, were diagnosed in the last five years.
I can relate to Miriam. My husband, although not a diabetic, suffers quite severe lows. And now that I see this is an actual condition, I'm scared.
We all can relate. It's the same beast with a lot of different ugly faces. And although there are other scary beasts, this is ours.

I didn't mean in any way, shape, or form that I understand completely what Type 1's may or may not be going through. What I meant was that I wish I could have people that Rachel does-people who understand what it means to have a 58 in Chem class and have your teacher give you a funnny look as you drink a juice box. I don't mean to imply that I understand what it feels like to take insulin, I just wished for a stronger community of people who understand what I mean.

Yay Rachel. I am always inspired by you and glad to learn more about Type 2.

Rachel,
I read your post and could not believe how similar it was to my story (type 2). Several members of my family ( cousins) are in a similar condition as I am. The common link was that they are all on my mothers side but, unfortunately she died when I was 13. Now at 60, I am on 2 types of insulin and metformin.To say the least it sucks but, I deal with it. Recently, I changed my diet and and found some substantial benefits. I am limiting my "fats" as much as possible as well as minimizing carbs also while focusing on proteins. Doing this I can almost maintain control only using 1 long lasting insulin.

Good luck !.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful story, and an important message that help many others. It is encouraging when someone diagnosed has such a great attitude.

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