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story.lead_photo.caption Every new day is another chance to get things right. (Democrat-Gazette file photo/Jason Invester)

When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction.

— Comedian Steven Wright

When I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes I was scared — very scared. Those of you who also felt that way know what I mean. I felt like one mini candy bar or peanut butter cup might have my son planning my funeral.

But you learn to cope and figure out what you can have and, if you're like me, you eventually grow lax and slip back into old bad habits.

In my last column, I wrote about how I needed to get my eating under control — diabetic or not. It wasn't because I had gone totally off the rails and was eating nothing but garbage, it was the holidays. They are traditionally a time for sweets, treats and large meals that I don't always get year-round.

I decided that during the last two or three months of 2019 I would work to be moderate, deciding to have some treats but trying to stay afloat until all the goodies had been put away. If I tell myself I can't eat a bit of something, I'll often end up eating all of it.

These days I'm trying to be less of a pearl-clutcher and more of a rational adult who has the smarts to do what is the best for me. It seems to be working — for the most part.

I ran across an article on the website of Everyday Health ( that speaks to the topic of diabetes and life expectancy. It addresses things that might be dragging us down or causing undue stress. The article contends that while diabetes has been associated with a shorter-than-average life span, it turns out that with proper tools, attitude and a good support system, people with the disease can change the course of their health.

I am undergoing a change of perspective on diabetes right now, and I urge those of you who struggle to do so, too.

The article quotes Joanne Rinker, a registered dietitian who is director of practice and content development at the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She says that "for every individual, diabetes is going to progress differently. If it progresses at an extremely slow rate, because the disease is so individualized, it might be so slow that it does not impact their life expectancy whatsoever."

Dr. Medha Munshi, director of diabetes programs at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, says it's important to think, "What are the factors that would [affect] the length of life." He says, "Some factors, such as genes, can't be changed, but modifying diet, exercise and smoking habits can have positive health effects and have been associated with an increase in life span."

Many people live with diabetes for years before they are diagnosed, but once they are, they can approach the condition head-on. For some, quality of life can be better after diagnosis because they can take action with behavioral changes or medication.

What's important to remember, Rinker says, in the absence of cardiovascular disease, life expectancy is going to depend on the progression of diabetes. It's important to eat healthfully, exercise and take medicine if recommended by the doctor.

One of the things Munshi points out that really hits home with me is, "this disease is going to make people do things they should be doing anyway. They should be eating well and exercising anyway. It might actually prolong their lives because they'll be doing things they wouldn't have done before the diagnosis."

A report published in September 2017 by The BMJ suggested that maintaining a healthy weight and lowering blood glucose levels may even help reverse Type 2 diabetes. I've heard firsthand from people who say it happened to them.

Self-advocacy is key. Diabetics have to speak up for themselves to get the quality of social and medical support they need. "Ask questions, get expert advice and be proactive," Rinker says.

Even though we've heard it hundreds of times, Munshi contends, we have to realize that everything about diabetes is prevention. There are a lot of tools to prevent complications, and we have to consider factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol.

Lastly, Munshi says, due to a constant stream of new research and medical advances, people with diabetes are finding new ways to improve quality of life.

With all that in mind, I'm challenging myself, and others, to embrace some changes that could take some of the fear out of a diabetes diagnosis.

Email me at:

Style on 01/27/2020

Print Headline: Scary diagnosis could improve our health


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