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Sleep Apnea and Type II Diabetes: Common Partners That Can Be Defeated

Updated on October 17, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.

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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 Never Met A Buffet I Didn't Like

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.

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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.

© 2012 Bob Bamberg

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Atta girl, LucyLiu, congratulations! It sounds like you're being really sensible about it, too. You're a babe! When I started out, I told folks my goal was to become someone's boy toy. I think I missed that bus.

      I dismissed the fad diets out of hand and just went with what I was comfortable with and what worked for me. So far, I've been successful. My diabetes is under control without the use of drugs.

      Just a heads up, though. For you, the hard part is just beginning...keeping the weight off. My doctor says that most people who lose significant weight gain it all back within a year. Some even gain more than they lost. I've kept if off for 5 years now, which never ceases to amaze my doctor.

      I bowl with a man who lost 70 lbs. Twice. He's huge and his diabetes is out of control. He's about my age, will retire in a couple of months, but if he doesn't get his act together soon, I fear he won't be around to enjoy his retirement.

      Keep up the good work and thanks for the kind words!

    • LucyLiu12 profile image

      LucyLiu12 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Awesome and inspiring article, Bob. I've spent the last year losing 50 lbs, not really the hard way, just gradually adding exercise, vegetables, water, etc. When I started, I had so many joint pains, it was ridiculous, but they're completely gone now.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks, SpecialK, and please extend my congratulations and best wishes to your husband. You have every right to be proud of him, and he has every right to take great pride in his progress thus far.

      Those of us who have made great strides in managing our disease have done so as a result of significant change and sacrifice, not that those changes and sacrifices are a bad thing. But it still represents upheaval and even a little chaos in our lives.

      Overnight, we've had to undo years of living our lives a certain way and conform to a new and different way of life, all with the spectre of the severe health consequences of uncontrolled diabetes hanging like a dark cloud over our heads.

      The good news is, we quickly come to see how much better our new lives have made us, and that we really don't have to totally give up the old ways.

      I still have an occasional chocolate-dipped cone at the Dairy Queen, and I'll have a piece of cake at a birthday party, but I'll eat the hamburger without the bun and I'll skip the fries or potato salad.

      Tell hubby to keep up the good work. The work is never done, but it gets easier and conforms to a routine over time.

    • Specialk3749 profile image

      Karen Metz 5 years ago from Michigan

      My husband was diagnosed with diabetes a year and a half ago. He is slowly recovering! The two of you sound so much alike. I can't say enough at how proud I am of my husband! His last A1c cam back at 5.6 and he dropped one of his medications. He is working hard at getting rid of the metformin as well. He is now into a size 40 and still has about 25 lbs to go. Thank you so much for telling your story, it is such an encouragment! I am going to make sure my husband reads this. Voting up...