San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
Keep Watching the Skies!
In Howard Hawks’ classic 1951 sci-fi thriller, “The Thing from Another World,” a ravenous flesh-eating alien (actually an incredibly grumpy intelligent vegetable) is finally outsmarted and fried to death by a group of U.S. airmen after they find his crashed spaceship at the North Pole and mistakenly defrost him.
The movie ends with Scotty, a newspaperman who is attached to the arctic research mission, dramatically imploring his fellow reporters via radio, “Tell the world. Tell this to everyone, wherever they are: Watch the skies everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!"
I’m making a plea for us type 2s to become Scottys and tell our non-diabetic friends to “watch the skies.” In this case, what they should be watching for is prediabetes, the metabolic condition that’s often the prelude to type 2.
Right now—and the estimate keeps growing, the U.S. government says there are 80 million Americans who are prediabetic. That means most of them have elevated fasting blood sugars (above normal but not quite at the 126 mg/dL level that’s considered full-blown diabetes), are overweight and sedentary, and have high blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol.
If left unaddressed and untreated, their symptoms almost inevitably will lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes.
We type 2s can help people avoid diabetes because we know a lot of things they can do to prevent it. The steps for dealing with prediabetes are almost exactly the steps we all took after learning we had diabetes. They are the “magic 3” of diet, exercise, and medication.*
A skeptic might say that if our advice is so good, how come we got the disease?
The answer, of course, is that many of us didn’t do these things, and we eventually acquired type 2. Still, once we became serious about our routines after being diagnosed, most of us enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment that came with lowering our A1Cs and losing weight through better diet and more exercise.
If you can improve your markers after getting the disease, it makes sense that doing all those good things before you get it just might keep it from ever developing.
Being a Scotty means persistently getting out the message. Tell your friends, family, and neighbors that we type 2s know the turf and the challenges that come with prediabetes. Tell them we can help them with tips and moral support. For starters, direct them to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse at http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/preventionprogram/. The site is a good primer on prediabetes.
* Doctors increasingly are prescribing metformin to patients who have prediabetes. The drug is cheap, has a good track record, and doesn’t come trailing a bunch of side effects. By controlling the liver’s output of glucose, it can help start prediabetics on the road to lower blood sugar levels.