Dr. Abhijit Jagtap, Knowledge Management, R&D, Mumbai
Diabetes has been existent for centuries causing millions of deaths over the years. People affected with diabetes are also at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. But, diabetes can be controlled and its complications, overcome. On the occasion of World Diabetes Day, I wanted to share a story of my friend “Rahul” (name changed) who was diagnosed with diabetes five years back; fought bravely and pushed this dreaded disease back.
“Diabetes helped me getting organized in life.”
In the summer of 2012, Rahul was driving back home after the last day in his job via the Worli-Bandra sea link in Mumbai. Suddenly, his vision went blurry and he saw dark strings floating in front of his eyes. He was scared, but, managed to drive home somehow. The pangs of job loss had taken a back seat by then. He contacted an eye specialist’s clinic in his locality and got an appointment the same evening. He underwent blood pressure and eye tests at the doctor’s clinic and was asked if he had checked his blood sugar in the recent past. Rahul had not been to a doctor or a laboratory in the last two years or so. He never needed to, he told. The eye specialist told that he suspected Rahul to be suffering from a condition called diabetic retinopathy and advised him to get some tests done and to see a diabetologist the next day.
Rahul was diagnosed with diabetes as his fasting blood sugar was 352 mg/dl and his post-meal sugar was 246 mg/dl. Apart from prescribing medicines, the diabetologist strongly advised him to plan losing weight (Rahul was 95 kgs at 5 ft. 9 inches height) through some modifications in his lifestyle and dietary changes.
Rahul realized that the long working hours, stress and unhealthy eating habits of his last job had taken its toll. He felt good about leaving this job now. The diabetes diagnosis made him realize that he needed to get his life on track and start working on his health goals. That’s the time he started organizing his life.
Gym and Diabetes
Rahul started his journey of controlling his diabetes through joining a local gym. His doctor had told him that exercise helps to reduce his body’s resistance to insulin, thus increasing transport glucose into cells and reducing the blood-sugar build-up. His instructor played a major role in getting his blood sugar levels down. As he was on medications, his instructor used to check his blood glucose levels before, during and after workouts to check how they are responding. Blood sugar levels can fall during or immediately after or several hours after workout, which could put him at risk of hypoglycemia. Rahul used to eat a carbohydrate based snack an hour before the workout. A few gym apps also kept him motivated to monitor his daily calorie intake and body weight. Within a month his blood glucose levels were showing great improvement and his vision improved significantly. Rahul joined a job nearer to his home and made it a point to go out with his family on weekend getaways.
Monitoring blood sugars
Rahul’s instructor had advised him to at least keep two hypo treatments with him during workouts: glucose tablets, sweets and sugary drinks. It’s always safe to keep these during workouts to avoid going into hypoglycemia. A dietician attached to the gym had planned Rahul’s diet and he followed it to the T. Three months later, he visited his physician after another set of blood tests of which the HbA1c was 6.9% below the 7% cut off for diabetics on therapy. Even his cholesterol tests had come within normal ranges and he was weighing 78 kgs.
For young people like him who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Rahul’s advice is to first commit to oneself for making definitive changes in lifestyle and diet, and then chalking up a healthy and realistic plan together. His suggestion is also to join groups on social media with similar diseases which help in motivating oneself in completing personal health goals.
Only a very few people, if any, would thank a disease to have affected them. Rahul is one such person. He says he is thankful to “Diabetes” that helped him open a new chapter in his life, taught him the benefits of committing to a healthier life practices. Even with diabetes he felt healthier than he ever felt before.