Diabetes Type 2: Achieving Better Than Normal Health
I had my regular checkup last Friday and got the news on my latest lab results. Seven months ago when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes I weighed 210 pounds, had an A1C of 9.6, LDL cholesterol of 193, a triglyceride reading of 181 and a metabolic panel that indicated I had fatty liver. This morning the scale read 172.8 pounds. The lab says my A1C is now down to 5.1, LDL cholesterol has dropped to 123, triglycerides are at 44 and the metabolic panel no longer gives any cause for concern. Needless to say, this is encouraging news. While my weight is still a little high, the other numbers are what can be considered normal or close to it. Does this mean that I have licked diabetes and can go back to a normal life? In a word, no! If by "normal" you mean that I can again eat whatever I want when I want it, that I can go back to exercising when the mood strikes me, and that I never have to step on a bathroom scale again, then I will never be normal. Controlling a chronic illness does not mean curing it. Until someone invents a shot to eliminate insulin resistance and regenerate beta cells, I will still be a person with diabetes.
The realization that normal is not and never will be an option can be scary and even downright depressing. But it doesn't have to be. The truth is that what passes for normal in today's world is not that great. We as a population are overweight and under-exercised and we suffer for it in a myriad of ways. Diabetes is a frightening diagnosis, but it is also an opportunity. If normal is not an option, why not shoot for better than normal? Those of you who watched a lot of TV in the 70s can cue up the opening of the Six Million Dollar Man:
Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.
Now, I have no intention of being the first bionic diabetic and I do not have access to any technology more advanced than the equipment at my local gym. But, I have discovered that even in my fifties, it is possible to be "better than I was before." It is not complicated. I am careful about eating carbohydrates and the carbs I do eat are generally high in fiber. I do resistance training three days a week to build muscle and burn glucose. At least two other days a week I put in time on the treadmill, alternating between high intensity interval workouts and aerobic training. There is even a little science behind all of this. Scientific American recently published an article that gives a good round up of the research on carbohydrates and diet. Another new article talks about a link between low muscle mass and diabetes. And finally, a new study compares high intensity interval training to traditional aerobic work.
I hit 55 in July. My goal over the next seven weeks is to be lighter, stronger and healthier than I was at 35. Given how far I had let myself go in my 30s and 40s, it is not an impossible goal. If normal is not an option, why not be better than normal?