The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

Opinion

May 19, 2014

Discovering a new passion for reading...

GREENVILLE — Life can certainly deal us some surprises as we grow older.

This is hardly “stop-the-presses” news, but a doctor’s report truly caught me off guard a few months ago. After reports from a routine physical came in, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

My first thought was “Good grief, how did this happen?” I exercise regularly and go easy on sweets. I admit I could afford to lose about five pounds, but then who couldn’t?

The next step was to learn all I could about managing this new condition. According to my doctor, I may never have to go on insulin shots; instead I can take the pill.

No, not That Pill. I mean metformin which, along with diet, can often help bring glucose levels down to acceptable numbers.

Ah yes, there’s that word “diet” which seems impossible to escape. In this case, though, we’re not focusing solely on calories; it’s the number of grams of sugar as well as carbohydrates, which break down into sugar almost the minute they hit your mouth.

With this in mind, I have become an avid reader of the nutrition facts listed on most food container labels — even something as ordinary as bottled salad dressings, for example. Certain brands of ranch dressing have fewer carbs than Italian or Catalina, and Caesar dressing has the least number.

And fruit — there’s a corker. We always think of fruit as being so very healthy for us — which it is — but if you’re diabetic, you also have to monitor your intake because of the natural sugar content.

From what I understand, living with diabetes is a matter of discovering how different foods affect your glucose levels, and adjusting your diet and lifestyle to provide the necessary nutrition.

One of the first things I did was to buy myself a small blood glucose meter, along with test strips and the lancets for getting the tiny blood sample needed.

 The kit included a pen-shaped device for holding the lancet and, when triggered, automatically pricks your finger which you have previously sterilized with rubbing alcohol.

Mechanical idiot that I am, I had trouble right off the bat getting the lancet inserted properly in the device. After a half-dozen frustrating attempts, I finally and dispensed with the holder used only the lancet to prick my finger. Bingo.

One of the things I have found interesting is the number of people who also have Type 2 diabetes.

Here are some statistics from the American Diabetes Association:

• Nearly 10 percent of the entire U.S. population has diabetes, including more than 25 percent of seniors.

• 1.9 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.

• 79 million Americans have prediabetes, the state in which some but not all of the diagnostic criteria for diabetes are met. It is often described as the “gray area” between normal blood sugar and diabetic levels.

• As many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes in 2050 if present trends continue.

Incidentally, celebrities with the disease include Tom Hanks, Paula Deen, Halle Berry, singer Patty LaBelle, major league pitcher David Wells, comedian Drew Carey, actor Paul Sorvino, film director George Lucas. Gov. Mike Huckabee and tennis great, Billie Jean King.

Until last year, the only one in our family with diabetes that I knew about was my late mother-in-law who developed the condition during middle age.

Then one of my sons was diagnosed as diabetic last summer. Now he laughs and jokingly says, “I thought I could blame Grandma Ferguson, but now I can point to you.”

On the brighter side, though, I have heard that in one sense, diabetes could prove to be a mixed blessing if it serves as a wake-up call. Don’t take good health for granted; have regular physical checkups with your doctor.

And keep your hands off that second doughnut.

Ferguson is a columnist for the Herald-Banner.

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