Playing the body numbers

I would really like to think that we can avoid the American scourges of heart disease and diabetes, if not cancer, by leading a healthy lifestyle. And I would really like to stay away from the complicating medications meant to treat them.

Thus, it was only reluctantly, after years of futilely trying to get my cholesterol numbers down with diet and supplements, that I agreed to start taking a statin. My husband is holding out against medication for himself, choosing to believe those who say cholesterol numbers aren’t all that important. Which of us will live longer? I guess you’ll have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, our bodies’ numbers are what we have to go by.

Vic is pre-diabetic, according to the numbers that have shown up in his blood tests over the past year or so. One set of tests a while ago would even have put him over the top, into the Type II diabetes category, if those numbers showed up again. He hasn’t gone for a lab test since then, for fear they will. Both of us and all the experts, allopathic and alternative, agree that controlling glucose levels is essential.

Vic is thin, fit, and eats a healthful diet. Neither of his parents was diabetic. So why the elevated glucose levels? More important, we’ve been wondering what he can do about them, since there is nothing obviously wrong with his lifestyle.

We’ve been working on diet for a while and in the last month or so have gotten down to a pretty strict version of the recommended diet for diabetics and pre-diabetics: Lots and lots of vegetables, moderate fruits, very moderate whole grains; moderate poultry, fish, eggs, and nuts, very little dairy. Vic gave up ice cream a while ago. We don’t buy chips, candy, or bread. I don’t make desserts. We don’t use sugar or honey, and the family-made maple syrup from last year is still sitting in the fridge. Wheat flour and white rice are not in my cupboards. We have a little wine on the weekends but Vic hasn’t touched beer in a month. I see that he gets all the diabetes-preventing foods–oatmeal, cinnamon, walnuts, cider vinegar, green leafies–every day that he is at home.

He tests himself every morning with a home glucometer. For all the careful effort, his numbers have been hovering around 120 (anything between 100 and 130 is considered pre-diabetes). It’s very frustrating. Sometimes I think the frustration is adding to his stress, which can also influence glucose levels.

What about exercise? Perhaps he had room for improvement there, but he has been exercising vigorously two or three times a week.

He’s been consulting doctors and alternative medicine practitioners. One told him that the kind of exercise might make a difference: intense interval exercise has been shown to reduce blood glucose levels. He suggested all-out intensity for 30–90 seconds, followed by 2–4 minutes of rest, repeated three times, every other day.

Vic started doing this and immediately his morning glucose levels fell below 100. Is this the magic formula at last?

But wait. He also skipped breakfast for a couple of days early in this experiment. And at the same time he started using a new package of test strips for his glucometer. Was it the fasting? Different test strips?

Too many variables, as my scientist husband would admit. In any case, he is trying to get up his nerve to go in for a proper blood test again. Those numbers are the bottom line.

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