The Silent Killer - Diabetes


Hello and welcome to another episode from me, your host, Julian.


Whilst I normally talk about apps to help you get things done, this time I’m not looking specifically at apps, but at something that has been happening over a number of years and now that I’ve got it under control, I can get on with my life.


In this episode, I’m going to tell you about my experience with Diabetes; and how it impacted on me, and my family.


Now, you may be wondering how this is linked to productivity; and I'll tell you - because until I knew what was wrong, this impacted on my ability to function properly.


This story starts many years ago; but came to a head in the summer of 2016.

Although I felt absolutely fine in myself, I had one major complaint.


I was constantly needing a wee!


I used to plan my journeys home from work so that I could make it all the way home with needing a break!  At work, I’d disappear every couple of hours.


I also found that I was getting tired during the day.  I was sleepy through meetings. I’m sure you’ll agree this isn’t the best idea!!


Whilst this had been going on for some time, it took a visit to Bournemouth for me to finally take action.


It wasn’t possible to complete the journey down the motorway without me needing to stop for a ‘comfort break’ at least twice.  Then, at the beach, I’d be back and forth from the loo every couple of hours!  Not to mention ‘disappearing’ when at the house.


So I arranged to visit the doctor, and we had a chat, he asked me some questions, and he took some blood, for testing.


One of the tests was for the level of HbA1C in my blood.


This is the technical term for glycated haemoglobin; in other words, how much sugar is attached to the blood cells.


In normal people the figure is 42mmol/l (millimols per litre) or below.

The reading for my HbA1C was 102!  Off… the… scale….


There you have it.  

The answer to my problems.

I have Type 2 Diabetes.


Within a week I visited the nurse, and she spent a very long time explaining all the symptoms and side-effects of diabetes. 


The do’s and don’ts, along with what I would be doing to reduce the effects and, more importantly, reduce that large reading.


There are many symptoms of diabetes.


For me, it started with the constant urinating… let’s qualify what I mean by constant.  I was going to the loo every 2 hours!  On average, 10 times every day!  However, there were two other major effects; that of lethargy and extreme thirst.  


I was frequently tired, had difficulty staying awake at work (not good) and driving long distances was a trial; not least because I’d need the loo.  


The nurse prescribed Metformin, a diabetes drug, which I’ve been taking twice a day, and continue to do so, every day.  


I was advised to exercise, and lose some weight.  


I should add that I wasn’t massively overweight at the time; in fact, when the nurse first saw me, her initial reaction was “you don’t look like someone who has diabetes”!  

Ain’t that just typical! 


Along with all the advice, I was given a glucose monitoring kit, to check my blood sugar levels on a regular basis.


The one thing I would say about checking glucose is that whilst it gives a good indication, the results are very transitional.  


It is just at that single moment in time.  An hour later and it could be different.


Sometimes, I’ve had really good readings, and other times, I can’t work out why they’re high!  


Sometimes, they’re even lower than expected - again, the readings are a moment in time.


Which is why the HbA1C reading, when they send off a sample of blood for testing, is based on the previous 3 months - which is how long blood cells hold onto the sugar.  I’m simplifying it, of course, but that’s what it does.


For those that don’t have experience of diabetes, or know anyone living with it, describing it is not something that can be done quickly; but I’m going to try and sum it up.

We have blood cells racing round our bodies, providing energy and nutrients as needed.

When we eat, the sugar gets absorbed into the blood stream, and gives us the energy we need.  

Right?  


Well, in a non-diabetic person, yes.


With me, the sugar wasn’t getting absorbed into the blood cells.  


It was knocking on the door, but the cells wouldn’t let it in!  


The consequence of this is not only could I not get the energy that I needed, but the sugar levels were building up with nowhere to go.

OK; they did have somewhere to go - out.  In my wee!  And because I was going so often, I would feel thirsty, so I would be drinking more, which as you can now see became a vicious circle - I needed to wee again!


Once I started taking Metformin, the blood cells ‘unlocked', allowing the sugar to enter, therefore increasing my energy levels and reducing my need to wee.  What’s more, this change happened virtually overnight.  It was amazing.


As you may have gathered, apart from the medication, managing diet is one of the key aspects to controlling type 2 diabetes.  


Sugar is the ‘enemy’.  By that I refer to glucose; added sugar.  Food made with sugar.  


Sucrose, the natural sugar found in fruit and veg is not bad, but again, it must be controlled.


Pineapple is full of sugar.  Grapes are very high in sugar content.  Melon too.  So, those fruits, as far as I’m concerned is a no-no.

Blueberries are very good, and I eat oranges, apples and bananas.


The other ‘baddie’ is carbohydrates.  

These turn to sugar in the body, so reducing carb intake is very important.  

Vegetables that grow underground are not as good as those over-ground.


It’s been a complete re-education and I’ve been very careful to watch what I’ve been eating, allowing myself an occasional treat. Although, I’ve lost the taste for chocolate and sweets - I find myself no longer missing them as much as I used to.


Nuts are good too.  They’re nutritious; although quite fatty, but almonds are reputed to the best for diabetics, and unsalted peanuts and cashews and pistachio nuts are also good.


I also started drinking a cholesterol reducing drink each day.  That has reduced my cholesterol level to below the minimum government guidelines - which currently is 5.


To help bring my weight down, I bought a cross-trainer, which I've been using daily.

Not only has it raised fitness levels, and I’ve lost some weight, but this has helped to reduce my latest reading to an encouraging 55.

Another benefit is that the cross-trainer isn’t just for me, so fitness levels at home are increasing all round!


How long have I been suffering with this?

I think it’s been about 8 years!!  

I say ‘think’ because quite honestly I don’t know!  I thought it was all normal!  

It crept up on me; but the more I look back on my symptoms, the more I realise that’s what it must have been, all along.


Having read information about diabetes, it can take up to 10 years before it’s diagnosed.  

Diabetes is not specifically hereditary; so you can't use that as a guide.  

Certainly, in my case, none of my family has ever had it.  So I can't 'blame' them!

I consider myself lucky.


Knowing what was causing my symptoms was a major factor in feeling better about myself.

Thankfully, being type 2 means I’m not dependent on insulin, so I don’t  need to inject myself.  

With a controlled diet to keep my sugar intake to a minimum, and daily exercise, I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better.

Just imagine:

  • I can now sit through a film at the cinema without needing to nip to the loo.  

  • I can drive without worrying about needing the loo.  

  • I can make it through the day without fighting to stay awake; especially after meals 

  • I’m eating healthier.

  • I’m feeling fitter.

It's not just about the diabetes.

There are some other major factors to consider.  

Diabetics are at an increased risk of stroke or heart attacks, kidney failure and loss of sight.  

Not to mention the threat of amputation, due to damaged nerve endings!

It is very scary stuff.

One other thing I would like to say.  The NHS has been fantastic.  The care I have received at my local clinic has been second to none.  

The nurse has done all the checks; from my weight and blood pressure, to checking my feelings in my feet.  

Why?  


Because diabetes can cause damage to nerve endings - this could me if I cut my foot I wouldn’t know about it, and the cut could become infected, leading to all sorts of outcomes - including amputation.  I always wear slippers when I’m at home.


I also have annual eye tests.  These are more in-depth than what you have at the optician, as the clinic take a very high definition photo of the back of your eyes, to see if there is any damage to blood cells.


I have what is called Background Retinopathy - which means there is a very slight change, but nothing that can be sorted at this time.  If I’m not careful, this could escalate and I could lose the sight in one or both eyes.

THAT is how important it is to keep fit and watch what you eat.


Not only that, but Diabetics are entitled to all prescribed medication free of charge.  Which, considering I have monthly renewals of the Metformin (at approx £8 at time) as well as any antibiotics I may need (I had a tooth out recently and they were just given to me); this is a real saver.


Otherwise, I can see people not taking the medication because they can’t afford it, and then creating further strain when the other problems occur.


Diabetes is a silent killer.


According to Diabetes UK, almost 4 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes

Of those, around 90% of people have Type 2 diabetes. Around 10% of people have Type 1 diabetes. 


It is thought there are another million people living with undiagnosed Diabetes.

Are you at risk?  

If in doubt, get a blood test.  

At the very least, my advice is watch your weight and your diet.


There is masses of information on the internet; and I will add the links to a couple of sites in the show notes.


Do you suffer from diabetes?  How are you managing?  What do you do to control the impacts?


Find out more information at:

Diabetes UK

Diabetes.co.uk


Get in touch via the comments below.

I hope you found this episode interesting. 

Please don’t forget to subscribe where you normally listen to your podcasts and until next time, remember, Productivity Matters.

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