Sleep Apnea and Type II Diabetes: Common Partners That Can Be Defeated
That Means There's Hope for Everybody
By August, 2007 I was a mess, but in denial. I was 61 years old, 5’8”, weighed 236 lbs, had outrageous, gluttonous eating habits, and the only exercise I got was my Monday night bowling league.
I was on medicine for high cholesterol, had been working seven days a week at our feed and grain store, without a break, since 2003, I was on a CPAP mask for sleep apnea, and I had just flunked an insurance company physical. They wouldn’t write the policy until I saw my doctor.
I made the appointment.
“Your A1c (a test that averages ones blood glucose level over a 3 month period) is 8.4,” my doctor told me, adding that he likes to see 4.5 to 6. He had warned me a couple of years prior that I was a pre-diabetic but I had blown that off, too. Now the diagnosis was official: Type II Diabetes.
I went on the drug Metformin, purchased a glucometer to test my blood sugar at home, and made an appointment with a diabetes educator for guidance. I made a solemn promise to myself, and a somewhat less solemn promise to my wife and doctor, that because this is a “lifestyle diabetes,” I was going to do something about it. I was on a crusade.
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I immediately corrected my eating habits, eliminating all the junk food and all-you-can-eat buffets that were such a large part of my life.
My wife is a nurse, and with her help I started weighing and measuring portions and being sensible about food choices. And I started walking for exercise.
The walking caused some pain in my right hip and left foot for a few weeks, then the hip pain subsided followed a week or so later by the foot pain. Being pain-free, I was soon taking a 3 mile walk every day.
It was two weeks from the time I was diagnosed until my initial appointment with the diabetes educator, and in that period I lost 10 pounds!
That, and the praise I got from the educator and my wife, was a real rush. I was seeing early progress!
Soon I was doing my three mile walk three times a day, but was still surprised at how fast I dropped weight.
By Christmas, I had lost 25 lbs. and was basking in the praise I was getting from the wife and kids, customers, bowling friends, and my Chamber of Commerce colleagues.
I had had two A1c tests by then and both came in at 5.6 and my at-home readings were all normal as well. I had been wearing 42” elasticized-waist pants, and for Christmas, I asked for 40 inch regular waist jeans.
One of my sons bought me two pairs, and they fit! Two weeks after Christmas, I exchanged the unworn pair of jeans for a size 38 and they fit.
The compliments and praise I was getting was heady stuff, and I was milking it for all it was worth, because I knew that once my weight loss bottomed out, the compliments and praise would fade away as the new me became the norm. And that’s when a lot of people regain the weight.
Realizing that it could easily happen to me, I devised a plan to keep myself on track. I got pretty cocky and bragged about my weight loss and blood sugar numbers to whoever would listen.
That group included hundreds of customers, bowlers and Chamber of Commerce members. If I started gaining weight back after all that not-quite-obnoxious bragging, they’d let me have it.
At my next physical on April 1, 2008, less than 7 months from my diagnosis, I had lost 53 pounds and was now tipping the scales (in 36” waist jeans I might add) at 183.
My A1c was 5.6 and the doctor said I could try going without the Metformin but keep it handy in case I needed it again. I did, and I didn’t!
Around the holidays I had fallen asleep a couple of times without putting the CPAP mask on, and my wife said my breathing was mostly normal and my terrible snoring was pretty much gone.
So, I asked the doctor if I could discontinue the mask. I went through another overnighter at the hospital and now only had a mild case of apnea and could discontinue the mask!
That was in 2007, and my A1c is now 5.5 and I’m still 50 pounds lighter. Sure, I’m taking a victory lap, but I’ve hoisted upon my shoulders my wife and that vast support group that provided so much encouragement. I’m absolutely certain that, without them, I’d still be a mess.