Sunday, July 17, 2011

Changing up my way of being healthy

I was diagnosed with diabetes in the fall of 2003.  I quickly found the low carb tight control approach, and gradually began to exercise more seriously, as I realized that I could eat more carbs if I exercised afterwards.  In May 2005 I did my first triathlon.  In September 2007 I did my longest race, a half-ironman.  I signed up to do the Beach to Battleship iron distance race the following year, but life got in the way of training and I gave up the idea several months beforehand.  The combination of a low carb way of eating and exercise kept my A1c in the range of 5.6 -5.8 for most of those years without any medication, and I loved being an athlete, enjoyed the training immensely.

I did one sprint triathlon last fall and another this spring, but I haven't been keeping up my training very much.  I still feel healthy, but my clothing size has crept back up almost to what it was when I was diagnosed.  I try not to care, but I miss other people seeing me as healthy.  A year ago my A1c was up to 6.1, which I thought problematic, though to my surprise this year it was down to 5.8--my way of eating works!  I'm lucky in my genes--my HDL chloresterol is naturally high (around 80) and my triglicerides naturally low (in the 30s), but my LDL is mildly high and has been creeping higher.  In the past year I tried to bring my LDL down by adding oat bran to my morning smoothie and taking a garlic supplement, but it didn't work.  I am not willing to take statins--I'm not willing to take the risk of muscle damange or memory loss. 

So I began to consider the idea that what had worked for me so well for five years wasn't working as well any more.  I loved being a triathlete so much and I had felt such pride in finding a way of being healthy that worked for me (without medication!) that it was very sad to admit that it wasn't working any more and consider a change.   I love being outdoors so much, but with less time flexibility now because of John's illness, too often the weather or other commitments get in the way.  And I find it hard to be really dedicated if I am going to be interrupted regularly--if I take a dedicated approach then the interruptions are too frustrating.

I had two ideas for a new way of being healthy.  One is an exercise machine at home, so exercise is more flexible and less of a time commitment.  The other is to go on diabetes medication, because there is a fair bit of evidence that metformin has a wide range of benefits and few downsides (unlike most diabetes medications).  I began to see things differently.  My old way of being healthy worked wonderfully for me in that stage of my life, but change is good, both for freshness and because the once the body gets used to a pattern there is less benefit.  Instead of thinking that I had found what worked for me once and for all, I might try a perspective that every five years I will change my way of being healthy.

So last week I started my new approach.  My exercise machine came Tuesday in a large box on a pallet, and thanks to a young man who works for me sometimes, it is set up.  I'm trying not to overdo it but I am enjoying using it to walk while I read blogs on my iPad.  I would be happy to get on it several times a day, but at this point I clearly need to be careful not to irritate my achilles tendon.  I like the motion of the hybrid elliptical/stair stepper a lot. 

The first couple of days I took metformin I noticed a little stomach discomfort, but that has faded quickly and the main difference I notice is that I feel more energetic--so much so that I have just switched to taking it in the morning instead of at night.  Some people have terrible digestive problems from it, but I didn't expect those because I am lucky enough to have a cast iron stomach.
I'm keeping a few pieces of my old way of being healthy. I'm still going to swim regularly and run/walk when I feel like it.  I'm dropping the garlic and an acai/berry supplement, but I will keep on with:
  • oat bran (on the theory that the fiber is good for me even if it doesn't help my cholesterol)
  • a supplement called serenity formula which I found reduced the impact of stress on my blood glucose
  • a calcium/magnesium combination with trace minerals (I only take one instead of the recommend dose of 4)
  • 2000 IU of vitamin D3
  • fish oil (which seems to reduce my mild hot flashes)
I will also add Vitamin B12, which Metformin interferes with. I'm convinced by the argument that the methyl form is the best.

I have one more piece to put in place--the treatment I have chosen for my benign thickened uterine lining is an IUD that releases progesterone. Figuring out how the insurance would work was a major enterprise, but it is on its way and my doctor's office will call to set up the appointment to put it in when it arrives. I actually have had symptoms of estrogen/progesterone imbalance for years so I am hoping that if I feel any differences they will be to the good.

I'm excited to be making a new start!

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