We have a health crisis in the United States called type 2 diabetes.
From the Mayo Clinic:
Type 2 diabetes, once known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar (glucose), your body’s main source of fuel.
With type 2 diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells — or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level. Untreated, type 2 diabetes can be life-threatening.
A recent development in this serious disease, is that the ages of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes continues to lower. The childhood obesity epidemic is leading to more young adults being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes that until recently was a disease of those in their 50’s and 60’s. This is one shift in the diagnosis of this deadly disease and another is that it is effecting young women who do not fit the typical profile. An article in Women’s Health, about a seemingly fit and thin woman being diagnosed with prediabetes made me want to share my own story.
On the road to my diagnosis with graves disease, my endocrinologist ran a battery of blood tests. They mostly dealt with thyroid levels but also cortisol and glucose. The doctor thought it was unlikely that I had an issue with my glucose levels but because of a family history, my Grandmother had Type 2 diabetes, he wanted to err on the side of caution. When the blood work came back, my levels were through the roof but still in the prediabetes range.
My doctor was surprised because I, like the woman in the Women’s Health article, do not have the typical risk factors for prediabetes. The primary risk factor, according to the Mayo Clinic, is being overweight “because the more fatty tissue that you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.” I have never been overweight, so this diagnosis was a complete shock.
The high glucose levels, plus my impending radioactive iodine treatment for graves disease, forced me to look at my lifestyle. Was I active enough? Was I eating well? My days with an overactive metabolism were numbered and type 2 diabetes is a serious illness. I knew I had to make changes.
For years I wanted to run but always got halfway through the Couch-to-5K program and quit. The threat of a life altering disease hanging over my head was enough motivation to finish the program. Eventually, I even started to enjoy running and exercise became part of my regular routine. I cleaned up my eating habits and hoped I was doing enough.
One year after the initial diagnoses, my glucose levels are completely in the normal range and there is no threat that I will need to take medication.
It is so important to incorporate regular exercise into your daily life and to make sure to see a doctor regularly. If my primary care physician had not found a lump on my thyroid, I would have never been given a glucose test and may have developed Type 2 diabetes which has no cure.
Further reading on the subject of young women being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
More young adults are living with diabetes
Erika Rodriguez: The Face of Obesity-Fueled Diabetes at 20
The Effects of Type 2 Diabetes on Women