Mom in the Drivers Seat

By: Scott M. King

Back in December 1992, two years after we started Diabetes Health, I was shocked to learn that Mom had developed diabetes, too. I wrote in these pages about how she had complained to me that she was tired and couldn’t get off the sofa. She was depressed, and sometimes she slept all day. Then she got worse. She was sick, lethargic, had tingly feet and blurry vision. I was concerned for her health and suspected that she had diabetes.

I mailed her a blood-glucose meter as a gift, and she started testing right away. Her blood-glucose readings were 160 mg/dl in the morning and 360 mg/dl one hour after meals. I called Mom’s doctor in Hawaii to discuss her care.

The doctor didn’t know she had diabetes—he was measuring only her fasting blood glucose. "Don’t worry," he said. "All overweight people like your mother have high blood sugar."

(Back then, a fasting reading of 140 mg/dl or greater was the diagnostic level for diabetes. About five years ago, the level was lowered to 126 mg/dl or greater on at least two occasions.)

I had to be forceful and insist that he treat her diabetes.

Although he resisted, he did listen to my plea to take some action. He scheduled a glucose tolerance test because he didn’t believe Mom’s meter readings.

Mom’s blood glucose shot way up during the glucose tolerance test—reaching 350 mg/dl. Her doctor then started treating her diabetes, and she has been on a path of education about this disease ever since.

It’s funny. When I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 17, it was Mom who cared for me and brought information into our home. For the past 10 years, I’ve had the chance to return the favor, to care for her and to bring information into her home.

What Happened This Week

Mom e-mailed me the other morning. Her doctor wanted her to start taking the ACE inhibitor lisinopril, as her urine test had come back positive for microalbumin. I was alarmed.

I called our clinical adviser, who told me that the doctor was following clinical guidelines by checking her urine for microalbumin—basically, an early-warning system that can detect even the slightest damage to the kidneys. If the results are elevated (in the 30 to 299 range), it is standard procedure to start taking an ACE inhibitor. ACE inhibitors can slow the progression of kidney damage and, in some cases, can even reverse it. ACE inhibitors are known to sometimes elevate the potassium in your body, so it’s also prudent to have your blood electrolytes tested regularly.

Of course, the ACE inhibitor will also help keep Mom’s blood pressure down—which is very important in protecting kidneys from disease. In fact, because high blood pressure is so damaging to kidneys, people with diabetes are advised to keep their blood pressure below 130/80.

Mom was relieved when I called her back to tell her that ACE inhibitors are the right way to go. Her next comment really tickled me: "I will visualize this condition reversing." Hearing that comment reminded me what a positive influence my mother has been on my own diabetes.

I am very proud that, at age 81, Mom is still moving and learning, trying new things, taking her vitamins, reading the research, and standing ready to work through anything that comes along.



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