Back in 2016, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Needless to say, I was devastated. Conscious that the condition runs in the family, since my early 20s, I had always made an effort to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. However, the diagnosis of schizophrenia at the age of 29 meant a dramatic increase in my weight from the anti-psychotic medication that I was prescribed. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the anti-psychotic medication has a tendency to increase blood sugar levels. Before I knew it, I had developed diabetes.
While this is a deeply personal topic, I wanted to open up about my experience living with and managing this complex condition. I hope that I can help others who are in the same situation, or those with loved ones who suffer from diabetes. Please bear in mind that people are different and I have experience only with Type 2 diabetes, so this information is no substitute for seeing a doctor if you think you might have diabetes or would like to control your condition better.
Since this is a very broad subject, I will divide it into a series of posts. In this post, I will describe what diabetes is and how it can be managed.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where your body cells are resistant to the action of insulin and/or your pancreas produces decreasing amounts of insulin.
Certain ethnic groups are predisposed to developing Type 2 diabetes. If you are of South Asian, African, Carribean, Maori or Polynesian descent, you are five times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people of Caucasian origin. Being overweight also increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Why is diabetes so serious?
If ignored or badly controlled, diabetes can have far-reaching consequences for your overall health including amputation, blindness and even death
How is it diagnosed?
You won’t feel well. Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include fatigue, lack of energy, passing large amounts of urine, thirst and gradual weight loss.
If you’re in a high-risk category like me, your doctor might be keeping an eye on your HBA1C levels regularly.
Management of Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can be controlled by (i) insulin (in serious cases); (ii) a drug such as metformin (and possibly insulin as well); or (iii) diet and exercise, like me.
The key is to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t reverse diabetes once you have it, but you can manage it.
When I was first diagnosed with diabetes in February 2016, my HbA1c level was 57. I was lucky that my GP gave me the chance to lower it to an acceptable range without meds. As I was able to bring it down to 50 after three months and 41 by the end of the year through diet and exercise and my HbA1c readings have been within the acceptable range since then, I have controlled my condition without meds for three years.
According to my dentist, controlling diabetes through diet and exercise rather than meds is preferable because the drug metformin can cause dry mouth and lead to gym disease.