Managing My Type 2 Diabetes: Everything in Moderation
When I was 60 years old, I complained to my doctor about frequent urination. This symptom, coupled with my age and family history, prompted a blood test, and sure enough, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
I’ve been living with the disease for 20 years, and fortunately, am still able to control it without insulin injections. In fact, until a few years ago, I was taking only one metformin pill a day to regulate my blood sugar. Now, I take two pills in the morning and one before bed. It seems like the older I get, the harder it is for my body to produce insulin like it should to regulate my blood sugar.
For me, a “good” blood glucose level is about 150 mg/dL, which is still considered pretty high. But when it comes to diabetes, ideal levels can vary from person to person.
My wife, for example, also has type 2 diabetes, and thankfully, she’s still doing pretty well with it. She takes two pills a day, as opposed to my three, and a “bad” blood glucose level for her is when it gets over 130 mg/dL. My late brother-in-law, who treated his diabetes with insulin injections, would regularly have levels well above 200 mg/dL.
I try to check my blood sugar every other day like the doctor recommends, and I know if it gets too high, I really need to watch what I’m eating. I also go to the doctor every six months to get a glycohemoglobin test, or HbA1c, which measures my average blood glucose levels over the past three months. My doctor tells me that the general rule of thumb is if your HbA1c level is over 7, you’re probably going to have to treat with insulin injections—which thankfully hasn’t happened for me yet, and I try to prevent it as best I can.
In addition to taking metformin, my wife and I try to limit our fats and control the amount of sugar and carbs we’re eating. We’ll still eat foods with fat and sugar, of course; who can resist dessert? But we really try to buy low-fat and low-sugar items at the grocery store, and read the nutrition labels to avoid foods with a large amount of added sugar. ‘Everything in moderation’ is our motto.
Now that I’ve been on both sides, as a patient with diabetes and a caregiver for my brother-in-law, I know how extremely fortunate I am to not have to manage my diabetes with insulin injections. My brother-in-law and other members of my family have to check their blood sugar very frequently and have to inject insulin before each meal, regardless of where they are–whether it’s a family party or restaurant. It’s a hassle, and it’s scary knowing that if you treat with too much insulin, or if there’s any imbalance between the amount of insulin in your system and the amount of food you’ve eaten, you could go into diabetic shock.
For anyone newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I would recommend doing what you can do to prevent the progression of the disease and controlling your sugar levels so that it doesn’t get that severe. A healthy combination of a good diet, exercise and adhering to medication has worked well for me.
Dan Wormald, 80, lives in Northern Kentucky with his wife Mary. He has been treating his type 2 diabetes with medication for 20 years.