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.
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.
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.