Welcome to my endocrine system.
In January of this year, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I spent much of 2004 with fatigue and amenorrhea along with a significant weight gain. The weight gain was especially difficult as I had lost 35 lbs in 2001 due to pre-diabetic blood glucose levels and now I’d gained it all back AND MORE. The diagnosis also explained some hair loss, cold intolerance, and short-term memory loss (aka “brain farts”) I’d been experiencing. By May, my levels had normalized with daily oral thyroid replacement hormone. My periods had returned to normal and my energy levels were on the rise.
In March, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. My primary care physician said that I “got the short end of the genetic stick” and that I had spent just a little too much time being overweight for my family history. (No one, even those with weight issues, had been diagnosed before age 60, which really scared me with the diagnosis coming less than a month before my 29th birthday.) I never had an obese BMI, but I stayed well above my ideal weight for six years. Although I had lost weight with the pre-diabetic warning in 2001, I hadn’t lost all the weight I should have…and then of course, gained it back with the help of a European honeymoon (= yummy baked goods) in 2002 and fatigue from the hypothyroidism (= no exercise) in 2004.
My HbA1c (a test that determines how many sugar molecules are getting stuck to red blood cells) was 6.4 in March. Normal, non-diabetic levels can range from 4.0 to 6.0. Diabetics should have theirs under 7.0. My fasting blood glucose was 136. Normal, non-diabetic level is under 100 (although that was recently changed from under 110). Pre-diabetic levels are anything under 126. I also had an oral glucose tolerance test, which checked insulin resistance. You may be familiar with this given to pregnant women to test for gestational diabetes. This showed some abnormality indicating full-blown diabetes, but not anything overly concerning, as I wasn’t going to be drinking super sugary pop anymore.
My PCP wanted to put me on oral diabetes medication right away, but I chose to wait until I saw an endocrinologist. In the meantime, I monitored myself with my type 1 diabetic husband’s blood glucose monitor. By the time I saw the endo, I had a good idea of what foods to avoid. (Yes, my husband is a type 1 diabetic, which means he does not produce any insulin and is dependent on insulin shots. We have told our five cats that they are not allowed to become diabetic.)
He thought I was doing well with diet and exercise alone. I had started 4-5 30+ minute walks a week in January, which was already helping my levels and had managed to lose several pounds. Very importantly, my blood pressure reading at this appointment was 110/74 – the lowest I’d seen it in quite awhile. I had never seen it that low at my primary care provider’s office, where I was consistently seeing 130/90 type readings over the previous five years.
After meeting with the dietician in May, I felt even more confident that diet and exercise was helping…so much that I lost a little motivation to keep doing all that walking. I had another blood test in late June that showed that my HbA1c was down to 5.7 and my fasting glucose was 124, which brought that motivation back up. I also got the results of my cholesterol testing, which was better than it was in 2000 and 2002. I met with my endo again in July, who told me to keep doing what I’m doing and see him again in January. Blood pressure was still doing well at 100/70.
Today, I am monitoring every fasting blood glucose (first thing in the morning) as well as before/after dinner most days. I have a pretty good idea of what numbers I should be seeing so that if they start to run high, I can troubleshoot why that might be. It can be stress or a sign that my period is on its way or that I ate too many “bad carbs”.
I have now lost 40 lbs since January and hope to lose 10 more. Slow but steady… the best way to keep it off permanently. I exercise at least four days a week, but usually five or six. I drink lots of water to help stay hydrated, both for lower blood glucose levels and for the dry Colorado air. I watch what I eat, of course, by trying to keep my carbohydrate intake in check. A carbohydrate must have at least 2 grams of dietary fiber and no more than 6 grams of sugar per serving, as well as no more than 45 total grams of carbohydrates per serving. Goodbye rice, hello couscous! Oh, and you know how Wilford Brimley has done oatmeal commercials in the past? Oatmeal kills my blood glucose levels. Take that, Wilford!
I turn 30 five months from today. I hope to be much healthier in my 30′s than I was in my 20′s. This year has been a good introduction to a healthy decade.