Diabetes Health Type 2: Managing Diabetes After Retiring

Nine years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. My internist had ordered some standard blood tests plus the a1c and when the results came back he was concerned about an elevated a1c. Three months later my a1c was even higher so he started me on Metformin.

I didn’t tolerate Metformin well so my doctor switched me to Glimepiride each morning and Januvia after my evening meal. That combination worked – for a while. In time my a1c levels started creeping up again despite the exercise I was getting and the nutritious food I was eating.

My endocrinologist recommended starting a long-acting insulin. I wasn’t keen on injecting myself with a needle each night before bed but I had been told by some reliable sources that it was definitely worth starting the insulin.

Let me back up a bit and say that when I was first diagnosed with diabetes I was angry. I didn’t want to have this disease. I hoped against hope that my doctor was wrong in his diagnosis. When I looked at my blood sugar levels and my various a1c readings, however, when I looked at the numbers, I knew that he was right.

I wasn’t surprised about getting Type 2 diabetes in my 50s because my mother had also gotten late-onset diabetes. So had my mother’s sister and in recent years two of my older brothers were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I knew that many things were hereditary.

I didn’t like hearing my diagnosis of diabetes but I figured that I had two choices: I could ignore it and crawl under a rock or I could learn as much as I could about Type 2 diabetes and the latest treatments available and manage it as well as possible.

I never was someone to hide in a corner so I chose to come out fighting. I am working with the best doctors in the field that I can find. During my office visits these past few years they would give me information and I would keep picking their brains and peppering them with questions until I could understand as much as I could about how the body processes sugar – and the best way to manage diabetes.

For example, they showed me the Diabetes Plate Method as a simple guide for planning meals. I fill one quarter of my plate with whole grain or starchy foods, half with non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli and the remaining quarter with lean protein foods.

I like looking at the Diabetes Plate Method because that quick picture reminds me about what will work best for me.

During the day I also have some fruits but I do my best to choose fruits that are lower in sugar such as strawberries and blueberries. I have an early lunch each day and know that my weakness is snack time which means that at about 3 p.m. I am looking for something to nosh on. I’ve learned to keep some avocadoes in my refrigerator or some other healthy snack around so that when I want to reach for something it’s a good choice.

I like drinking smoothies but I switched to green smoothies. I didn’t want to feel deprived of having a nice, cold smoothie on a hot summer’s day. I just make it lower in calories and sugar.

Placing some spinach, kale, broccoli, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwis, avocadoes, lemon, water and ice into a small blender, I grind everything up, add a straw and taste a delicious smoothie. It certainly hits the spot!

I don’t have to use the same fruits all of the time – for the sake of variety I can switch it up and get a different taste on any given day.

I’ve found that watching my weight, being careful about my diet, exercising, getting the proper rest, alleviating stress and taking the right medicines for me are key to managing my diabetes. I also like to vary things somewhat so that I don’t get bored with my regimen.

After working full-time in the New York City and Long Island areas for almost 41 years I decided to take an early retirement and move down south. Just a few months ago I made North Carolina my new home and I have to say that I miss seeing that famous New York City skyline but I won’t miss living through the snow and cold winters of New York. I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up on Long Island but I have found a new home in the “Tar Heel State.”

I live near several of my brothers, sisters and their spouses and for years I kept my diagnosis of diabetes a secret. I guess I felt ashamed of having diabetes. When I moved to my new home, however, I told my whole family and they are very emotionally supportive about this.

They root for me, and so does my partner, who also helps to ensure that our food shopping list and our refrigerator contain fresh vegetables and other healthy foods.

What I have noticed? I’ve found that the chance to get some more rest each day and have less stress in my schedule helps me maintain my blood sugar levels. I’ve found that eating some cooked shrimp without any sauce is good for my blood sugar level.

I am trying to acquire a taste for salmon which I have also heard is healthy so maybe … some day I will enjoy eating salmon.

I have also found that by losing eight pounds, as my doctor suggested, it has helped me to control my blood sugar levels. When he tactfully suggested dropping some weight and when my goal was reachable, attainable, I knew that with a little bit of effort I could reach it.

What I am struggling with these days is managing my diabetes and exercise while retired. Sometimes I pat myself on the back and say, “Good job!” for working all of those years. I want to relax and enjoy my retirement. I want to watch everyone else going off to work each morning and say, “I’ve already paid my dues. I can just relax!”

I have joined a book club, a mahjongg group and a Rummikub group in my community but I realize that these are sedentary groups so I must exercise. I have to forge ahead not fall behind.

I know that I can watch TV or read a book but I remind myself to get up and walk every so often. I also like to stand up and move around – or dance a little – when the commercials come on the TV – so I am not totally a “couch potato.”

As a new resident of North Carolina, I am happy to exercise in the pool. Slipping into the cool water, I take a refreshing dip then get to work walking as quickly as I can in the pool. I either count my steps or time myself with a clock.

Another exercise I do is, gently holding onto a noodle, I skip to the right 20 steps with my head facing forward. After I stop for a few seconds I skip to the left 20 steps. I keep doing this until I feel myself getting tired. I am slowly increasing how long I can do this in the water.

I also stretch out my arms and shoulder muscles by holding onto the noodle and doing some gentle stretches.

I like doing exercises in the pool and I specifically joined a community in North Carolina that has both indoor pools and an outdoor pool so I have “no excuses.” Exercise is a must for this diabetic.

In addition to doing my pool exercises I do some land exercises, too, because doing weight-bearing exercises is just as important as doing non-weight-bearing exercises. When the pool area isn’t busy I put on my sandals and walk around the perimeter of the pool. Once again I either count my steps or time myself with a clock.

If the pool area is busy and I can’t exercise, I’ll make sure that after drying off and getting changed back home I’ll take a nice long walk – on land. Having some nice scenery to look at helps to alleviate any monotony that may try to creep in.

If it happens to be 100 degrees outside with a real-feel temperature of 110, I’ll do some stretches and other exercises inside my home – in air conditioning – so that I am comfortable and I am sure to get in my quota of exercise.

I don’t have to overdo the exercise, I just have to do it. If I happen to feel lazy on any given day I remind myself that I have choices. I can reach for some good numbers or I can feel sorry for myself. One tool that I use is keeping an exercise band in sight. When I see that colorful band lying there on my desk I tell myself that all I have to do is reach out, pick it up and get started.

Before moving from Long Island I worked with a physical therapist who showed me some specific exercises. I wrote down everything he recommended, took my papers with me and look at the pictures of the exercises as reminders of what I specifically have to do. It also helps to know that my P.T. is cheering me on even though he and I may be hundreds of miles apart.

Each week I continue to expand on the types of water exercises I do – and the weight-bearing kind, also. The weight-bearing kind of exercises forces you to work against gravity. Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis and dancing.

Who knows, maybe I will take up ballroom dancing! All I know for sure is the next time I look at my a1c results and at my bone density test results, I want to see some good numbers! I want to be able to pat myself on the back for a job well done!

Note: Don’t start any exercise without checking with your physician.

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