Mike Golic is the co-host of ESPN’s wildly popular radio show, “Mike and Mike in the Morning.” Before beginning work as a broadcaster in 1995, he played for nine years as a defensive tackle in the National Football League, including stints with the Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami Dolphins. About five years ago, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Since then, he has become involved in getting the word out about type 2, including the potential danger of hypoglycemia. He is a spokesman for “Blood Sugar Basics,” a website and outreach program co-sponsored by Merck and the American College of Endocrinology.
Diabetes Health publisher Nadia Al-Samarrie recently talked with Mike about life since his diagnosis.
Nadia: You’re involved in a campaign to increase awareness of the danger of hypoglycemia among people with type 2 diabetes. It’s a condition that type 2s generally don’t worry about. Have you ever had really severe hypoglycemia?
Mike: I’m with you about how type 2s look at it. When I was diagnosed about five years ago, I was a little stunned because I wasn’t showing any of the tell-tale signs. My father has type 2, so diabetes was always on my mental map, but when you think of type 2, you think of high blood sugar.
After going to my doctor and getting an introduction to diabetes, I came away with “OK, you have this disease now, and what you need to do is diet and exercise.” So my athletic cap went back on, and I said to myself that I was going to lose weight. I stopped eating before I went to work out in the morning. That was mistake number one. Then the workout itself was very intense, almost like I was playing in a game. That was mistake number two. Put them together, and all of a sudden I was getting the shakes and sweating, and my heart rate was going up. But the athlete in me said to push through it like I would push through any workout where I was hurting a little. I told myself I’d be fine. Well, I almost passed out. Luckily I had some food in my bag, so I sat there and ate a little bit until everything came back.
After that, I talked to my doctor and asked, “What gives?” He told me that what I had experienced was hypoglycemia and that I had to be careful not only about when and what I eat, but also about the intensity of my workouts. He also said that I might have issues with the meds I was taking to lower my blood sugar. He said everybody’s different when it comes to how they react to these things and that I would have to learn my set of reactions. There are a lot of aspects to diabetes, and hypoglycemia was one I really didn’t know about. I had to learn about it the hard way.
Nadia: Type 1s know the symptoms of hypoglycemia-regardless of how disoriented they are, they know they have to eat something. How did you, a type 2, know that you needed to eat something?
Mike: Well, I didn’t know at the time that it was low blood sugar. I was hungry because I hadn’t eaten, and I felt horrible. So I figured that taking a bite of something might settle my stomach and make me feel a little better. I didn’t know that that’s exactly what I needed to do for the hypoglycemia until I went to my doctor and heard him explain it to me. I thought, “Wow, that’s a heck of a way to find out!” Since then, it has been about educating myself about the different aspects of diabetes and how to deal with them.
Nadia: What’s your routine now? What do you eat before you work out?
Mike: I’m a morning oatmeal guy now. I love oatmeal and eat it every day. It gives me a good base. I usually eat that before I work out. If I work out in the afternoon, I’ll have a turkey or chicken thing or a bagel. Whatever it is, I make sure there’s something inside my stomach for fuel. It was dumb on my part not to be doing that before, since eating something before a workout is what you should be doing anyway.
Nadia: You’re doing a quarterly A1C, right?
Mike: Yes. My A1C is 7.2%.
Nadia: Does your doctor want you to get that down?
Mike: Yes, he definitely wants me to get it down. But I’ve made great progress. When I would first get a sheet with all the figures showing the results of my blood work, I didn’t quite understand everything that was on there. Now I’m at the point where I can look at the things that are highlighted, where my numbers aren’t in the range they should be, and figure out what I have to do. I only have a couple of things I need to work on-blood sugar and cholesterol. But I have another goal now, which is educating people about “Blood Sugar Basics,” the Merck-sponsored program I’m involved in. The website is www.bloodsugarbasics.com.
Nadia: Why are you involved with the program?
Mike: The website answers a lot of questions and gives a lot of tips about diabetes and how people develop it. Even though my father had diabetes, those were things I didn’t know until I developed type 2 myself. I have two football-playing sons who are large, and though they don’t have diabetes, I want them to be educated about it and know where to go to find out about it.
Nadia: When you were diagnosed, were you overweight and not working out as much as you did before?
Mike: I wasn’t working out at all. I had worked out so much through high school, college, and professional football that when I was done playing, I said, “That’s it, I don’t want to work out anymore.” Although I wasn’t working out, I was still eating as though I were still playing-not a good combination. So, yes, I was overweight. But even so, the possibility of getting diabetes was something I didn’t think about. I figured you had to be this 450-pound person who was urinating frequently and feeling tired all the time. I wasn’t experiencing any of that. Yet, all of a sudden my doctors were telling me I had diabetes. I realized that you could have it without all the tell-tale signs. That’s why checkups are important, especially with us men. We don’t think straight at times, so we don’t want to go get our check-ups. Men need to go find out what’s going on.
Nadia: Men! Won’t ask for directions and won’t go to the doctor.
Mike: (Laughs.) That’s exactly right. Thank God women aren’t that way!
Nadia: But obviously your attitude has changed. How do you view going to the doctor now?
Mike: I’ll make an analogy. The best relationship you can have with your doctor is like the one you have with a good coach. Every year before football season started, I was handed a playbook that I had to learn by heart, and before every game, a specific game plan. My coach made sure I understood all the plays and what was expected of me. “Blood Sugar Basics” is now my playbook, and my doctor is my coach. The comparison may sound simplistic, but my whole life has been football, which I’ve always treated a certain way. I’ve decided to treat diabetes with the same intensity.
Nadia: What’s the best advice you’ve received about type 2 diabetes?
Mike: Don’t leave the doctor’s office until you understand everything. That’s another guy problem, by the way. I’d go to my doctor’s office and he would explain something in a way that I didn’t understand. Like a dummy, I’d just nod my head as though I understood it, then walk out of there. The advice to make sure you understand goes back to my game plan, where the doctor is my coach. I go to the “Blood Sugar Basics” website to find information and questions I can ask him. Instead of a one-way conversation where he’s just telling me things, some of which I might not understand, I can talk to him about things that I’ve seen on the website and ask more pertinent questions. No more just sitting there and waiting for him to tell me things, or walking out and thinking two days later, “I should have asked him about this and that!”
Nadia: Do you think that most people believe that even though diabetes is almost an epidemic, they’ll be the lucky ones who don’t get it?
Mike: Yes, yes. The thinking is the same as when I used to be in a locker room and would see a guy who had blown out his knee or someone dragging himself in from a game after getting really pummeled. An athlete’s favorite line of thought is, “It’s not going to happen to me!” and the same thought process applies to diabetes. I knew my dad had it, but I never thought I would get it. Then I learned that it could happen to me. Getting people to understand that they should take steps against diabetes now and not wait until it’s too late is important.
Back when my dad had diabetes, there was very little information you could get your hands on. Nowadays you can access an incredible amount of information on the Internet with just the push of a finger. The “Blood Sugar Basics” website gives you the knowledge you need to work with your doctor and properly take care of yourself. There’s really no excuse anymore for not learning how to manage diabetes.