Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Supporting the One You Love…In the Face of Diabetes (Guest Blogger Cheryl Farmer)

Marriage is a beautiful union shared between two people who love each other. As part of our marriage vows, we said we would love and care for each other in sickness and in health until death do we part. I love my husband and I know that he loves me. Our love has inspired me to share how diabetes affects our personal life.

Being a medical professional helped me understand this chronic condition, diabetes, but it didn’t protect my heart from the emotional heaviness that comes from seeing him struggle to maintain his health. As a doctor, I’ve cared for many people with diabetes. In my practice, I followed a prescribed treatment regimen to support people with diabetes by discussing lifestyle changes and prescribing medications, with lab work every three to six months. It’s different when it’s someone you love.

As my loved one works to control this chronic medical condition, I’m often aware of the adversity, loneliness, sadness, sorrow, and shame he feels. We talk about where these feelings come from and why they exist. He says that he feels that he has somehow failed himself and me, because of his diabetes. He blames himself. I assure him that he has not failed. My words, eyes, and touch express how proud I am of him in his continuous unrelenting pursuit to control and manage this condition. Living with diabetes is work. It requires being aware of what you eat, when you eat, always taking your medicines as prescribed, and daily physical activity to support a healthy weight.

When I’m not at work, my husband and I spend our time near each other, close together. We truly enjoy each other’s company. Every day in the evening, he says he’s going to take his evening meds and walks away — and I can feel his loneliness, sadness, and separation. He shares with me that he leaves because he feels shame. As his partner, I tell him of the emotions and thoughts that are evoked within my heart and mind. Because I know what he’s going through, I now make a conscious effort to be with him, supporting, and touching him when he does his insulin injections. My hope is that my support will help ease his shame and sense of personal failure.

As we work to lift his spirit, it’s important for me to let him know how important his voice is to me. Being aware of his emotional state keeps me alert to his actions, and supports his continued work to manage his disease.

In addition to offering emotional support, I’ve changed my eating and exercise patterns to help him manage his health. As a result of eating more whole fruits and vegetables, increasing our physical activity, sleeping between 6 and 8 hours nightly, reducing our alcohol intake (one drink every two to three weeks), and consistently taking medications, his blood glucose (blood sugar) numbers have reduced significantly. His fasting blood sugar numbers previously ranged from 170 to 230. Now his fasting blood glucose ranges from 60 to 85! We’re excited about his improvements. His doctor has hinted that as he continues to improve, we may be able to reduce his medication doses. We’re encouraged to continue with our work together.

I love my husband and I know he loves me, and I want to spend many more years together with him in good health. It’s important for us to remember that chronic conditions like diabetes can affect us all — directly and indirectly. Let’s use this time in November to remember National Diabetes Month and think about ways that we can support our love ones in their quest to control and manage this disease.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lunch right with every bite (Guest Blogger Cathie Tedrick)

Lunch right with every bite… That was the motto for this year’s National Healthy Lunch Day, celebrated by people across Washington yesterday, November 17th. So, the idea is to eat a nutritious, balanced midday meal every day. Sounds easy enough, right? Not always!

If you’re anything like me, busy lives often make it hard to take the time to make healthy choices. Picking up lunch from some fast food joint that’s just minutes away is just too dang convenient and tempting. But when my waistline started growing and I often found myself with more month left than money, I started thinking I should change my ways.

Then, in mid-July during a routine checkup my doctor told me my blood pressure was high and that she was concerned about my increased weight. Combined with my age and family history of diabetes, she recommended blood tests. When I went back a couple weeks later, my blood pressure was still elevated and the tests showed that my cholesterol was high. But what took my breath away was when the doctor said I had prediabetes. Working in the Department of Health’s Heart Disease, Stroke and Diabetes Prevention Program, I knew full well what that meant. Still, I listened numbly as she talked about lifestyle changes I could make to prevent, or at least slow down the progression of getting type 2 diabetes. She said I’d have to get my weight down, and the best way to do that is:

1: Eat a healthy diet. 2: Increase physical activity.

My body had spoken and it was time to do something!

Not wanting to overwhelm myself by trying to do it all at once, I decided to tackle increasing physical activity. With our amazing summer weather, getting up early and walking my dog three days a week was pretty easy to do. I soon found myself looking forward to getting up every morning to enjoy the peacefulness of the cool morning air. As an extra bonus, my energy level stayed up longer throughout the day. My “doggie alarm” now faithfully goes off every morning around 5:30. In the four months since I increased my walking, I’m down 25 pounds, have dropped three pant sizes, and notice more muscle tone. Yay!

But of course, I cannot attribute my success just to walking. On August 1, I made a commitment to eat healthier. First, I started by cutting out all types of fast food and easy to prepare packaged foods. I resolved to cook everything from scratch and make sure I’d have enough to take leftovers for lunch the next day. It was fun trying new recipes out on my kids and seeing which got thumbs up and which were, “nope!” After a few weeks of getting back into the swing of cooking, I decided it was time to cut down on sugar, and replace highly processed grains like white bread and pasta with whole grains. At the same time, I increased fruits and vegetables at meal and snack time. I’m not gonna lie, it was tough for the first couple weeks, but now it’s a breeze. And even though buying fresh fruits and vegetables can be more expensive than processed foods at the grocery store, I notice that I have a lot more money in my checking account from cutting out the fast food lunches.

MY recipe for success…prepare your healthy food ahead of time!
I love salad, especially when it’s full of a variety of veggies, fruits, and nuts. So, every Sunday I grocery shop and then chop up all my favorites, dividing the salad into six servings – one for dinner that night, and five containers that I can just pull out of the fridge and pop into my lunch bag. I throw-in a low-sugar Greek yogurt, apple, and cheese stick for snacks, and one of my favorite homemade salad dressings, along with a cold pack and away I go! At work I always have some unsalted sesame seeds, almonds and walnuts, no-sugar-added-canned fruit, and canned chicken or tuna to add to my salad, along with some high fiber/low-sodium crackers in case I get the munchies. 

Now you may be thinking…umm, that’s sounds like you’re eating the same thing for lunch every day. And, yes, for the most part I am. But for me, that’s how I’m able to stick to my plan to eat a healthy lunch during the work week. However, I do enjoy shaking it up a little, so I will often add other things to my salad to give it a different flair – such as peppercini’s, kidney beans, avocado, a little shredded cheese, and even grapes! I’ve also become more adventurous when I eat out – ordering the most creatively put together salad on the menu.

The American Diabetes Association’s Healthy Living Resources has great healthy lunch ideas. Let’s use National Healthy Lunch Day to start having “lunch right with every bite” every day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

21-Year Diabetiversary (Guest Blogger Sara Eve Sarliker)

Guest Blogger Sara Eve Sarliker shares her story about being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

In June 2015, I had what some people might regard as an odd anniversary. It was my 21 year “diabetiversary” – marking 21 years since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. About a year before that diagnosis, I had gone to a family planning clinic in California (Planned Parenthood) to get a prescription for birth control pills since I was a newlywed who had no immediate plans for pregnancy. At the time, I was given an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, that “fun” test that nearly every pregnant woman remembers not so fondly: rapidly consuming a sickly sweet, cola-like drink and then having blood drawn afterwards. I was told that I had “borderline diabetes,” or in other words, prediabetes. I sat in my car, mad at myself, and unsure what to do next, with little advice other than “lose weight.” So I changed nothing, continued to gain weight, smoke cigarettes, and do little-to-no physical activity.

After another women’s health-related visit I was diagnosed with diabetes in June of 1994, at the age of 25. I burst into tears. The first question to come out of my mouth was, “will I be able to have children?” My health care provider was surprised at my intense reaction to the diagnosis, and reassured me that it was possible for me to manage my diabetes and have a healthy pregnancy, when I was ready. That time didn’t come for another 10 years, when, thanks to a great team of health professionals, healthy eating and physical activity, and frequent, regular blood sugar testing and insulin injections, I gave birth to my kiddo, who was a healthy, full-term, baby just under seven pounds.

These days, I’m a busy, working, single mom with 20 years of diabetes self-management experience under my belt. I focus on eating plenty of vegetables, and using the savings I anticipate from my Smart Health incentive, tracking my physical activity on my personal wearable activity tracker. Sometimes I wonder what I would have done with the extra time, money, and brain-space I used to address and self-manage diabetes in these past 20 years if I’d been able to prevent or at least delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. I don’t blame myself, or anyone else that has developed type 2 diabetes, and I understand that there’s no known way to prevent or delay type 1 diabetes. But I wonder, if I had been able to participate in a Diabetes Prevention Program back then, would I have more time and resources now? (State Employees and spouses enrolled in PEBB can get more information about Diabetes Prevention Program classes with no out-of-pocket costs).

I encourage anyone who finds out they have prediabetes to look into the Diabetes Prevention Program. Getting screened for diabetes is easy, and in many cases, covered by insurance as part of your preventive health care. And for people like me who work every day to keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and other measures in the ideal range, I encourage you to seek out the help you need – supportive health care providers (including diabetes educators and mental health professionals), friends, mobile apps, walks, cups of hot tea, and deep breathing exercises – whatever keeps you on track and helps you stay afloat. Having diabetes isn’t easy, and it’s yet another twist in life’s winding path. but I have found it is manageable, and I’m able to say that 21 years since I was diagnosed, I’m lucky to not yet have any diabetes-related complications.