Having focussed for 40 years on my father’s premature death from a stroke and dietary patterns to prevent heart disease, it struck me I should begin to pay attention to being my mother’s daughter and my risk for developing Type 2 diabetes (T2D). My mother was a third generation Type 2 diabetic, following on after my grand-mother and great-grandmother. She was diagnosed in her early 60s, although may have been an un-diagnosed diabetic years before that.
There are differing opinions now on the best treatment for T2D, and whether diet and lifestyle changes can reverse the disease. This was not the case when my mother was diagnosed in the late 1980s, when it was considered a manageable yet progressive disease and not reversible. My mother followed medical advice of medications to control blood sugar levels and following a regimented eating plan. She became dismayed at her diagnosis to begin with, yet soon accepted her condition and carrying on with life. She survived the disease well, losing some weight initially on the recommended diet and she lived over twenty five years after her diagnosis. She did not suffer any marked degree of diabetic complications.
My mother was staunchly independent so it wasn’t until her late 80s, when an unrelated illness necessitated my siblings and I to care for her, that I became fully aware of the impact diabetes had on her life. Her days were structured around measurement of blood glucose, medications, medical appointments, and her regimented eating plan. However, she worked around this and was able to go about her life as she previously had. She was a very active member of the local community – to the very end. Nevertheless, having seen the effects of living with Type 2 diabetes had on my mother’s life, I resolved I would try and prevent that disease in myself.
My Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
I began focussing on learning about what the risk factors for T2D were. In 2014, I did an online risk assessment. (1) I was dismayed I had a one in three chance of developing the disease within five years. In the blink of an eye, the extra weight I was carrying became a health problem. T2D has a higher prevalence in those overweight/ obese especially those who retain weight around their abdomen. Other risks factors are being sedentary, age, gender (males have a higher risk), having high blood pressure, and having a first-degree relative with Type 2 diabetes. (2) It is also associated with high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.(2)
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
When I went looking for information on reducing my risks, surprisingly I found less information on prevention than treatment options. Most easily accessible information about T2D is aimed at people once they are diagnosed with either diabetes or pre-diabetes. (2) It was almost as if no-one goes looking for help until either they receive the diagnosis or have a close scare. Information that did exist was mostly aimed at losing weight, becoming more active, and eating patterns of portion-control for carbohydrate.
Except for general advice, there did not seem to be any easily found information relevant to me, a non-diabetic with a strong genetic risk. Nevertheless, I resolved that while I could not change my family history or my age, I could reduce my risk by losing weight and my waist circumference, and become more active. That became my aim late 2014 as the New Year 2015 approached – to lose weight and reduce my risk profile for developing Type 2 diabetes. I also began to explore the medical literature on Type 2 diabetes.
I wondered how I was going to achieve this goal? I was still in a deep crisis and I had been struggling with my weight for some time …
Nothing seemed to work.
To be continued …
Following my series My Food History – this is a series on Food-Health.
# 1. A return to the heart of the matter
# 2. My risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.
(1) Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Australia. diabetesaustralia.com.au Retrieved 21 Nov, 2018.
(2) Diabetes. Mayo Clinic. mayoclinic.org Retrieved 21 Nov, 2018.