A Test You Cannot Cheat On
It is a pretty safe bet that anyone reading my posts has had to have a blood test done at some point of their lives. Whether it be for marriage, an employment physical, medical follow-up, whatever the reason. Some blood tests, you have to “fast,” not eat or drink for a period of certain hours. This is to give a “clean” number reading, not affected by nutrients or ingredients in food such as caffeine or sugar.
So, we do just that. Knowing that we have a blood test coming up, that is meant to measure sugar, or cholesterol, or something else affected by our diet, I can at least admit that I go overboard in the starvation of my body of the foods I enjoy, just to have the possible lowest number on that test. And it usually works. And as I hide nothing in my posts, immediately following the blood test, I go for a nice lunch of the very things I denied myself. At that point, with the blood test done, my cheesesteak and fries will not affect my results.
The truth is, we all have a tendency to “cheat” on certain blood tests. And it was a matter of time, before a blood test was created to prevent misleading numbers that do not reflect accurately the test being measured.
As I have been followed up for a long time with all the late side health effects I deal with, I get blood work done annually. I get the usual things checked, like cholesterol, and of course sugar. For as long as I can remember, I have had a test done called an “A1C” though never really paid attention to it. I just watched the “sugar” and “triglycerides” because these were the things I always heard discussed. Knowing that these were impacted by drinking sodas, eating candy bars, ice cream… you know… all the good stuff, I made sure to go easy on those things when I had these tests done. But this A1C was always in the background, hovering around 5.7 to 5.9. I had no idea what that meant until two years ago, when I was warned that with numbers like that, I was “pre-diabetic.”
Well, to me that just mean I was not diabetic, so really all I needed to do was just reduce my intake a little bit and I should be fine.
Last year, during my summer time with my daughters, I was unable to use my barbecue grille for a period of time. I tried to use my oven to broil things, but it was just not the same. And it would be too expensive to eat out every night. So, while I waited for the grille to get repaired, we ate pasta. A LOT OF PASTA. Which of course most know, pasta is carbs, which turn to sugar. It was two weeks before the grille was fixed. At the end of the summer, I finally got around to my blood test (mainly because of my fear of needles I always drag the test as far as I can).
The A1C test measures your average blood sugar levels for the last 60-90 days, in particular, how much of your hemoglobin is covered in sugar. That is right, unless you have been “cheating” for the last 60-90 days, the A1C is going to be the determining factor of being or pre-disposition to, diabetes. As stated above the picture, my number was 8.9.
Of course, as soon as my doctor informed me that I was now being diagnosed with diabetes, out came the excuses… the grille, my daughters visiting… The test measures 60-90 days average. My daughters were with me for 49 days. Fortunately I was not at the point where I need insulin (which I would never be able to afford), but my local grocery store sells a very affordable 90 days supply of the medicine I was prescribed to force my A1C down to a safe level, and get back to being “non-diabetic.”
I have other factors that play into a possible diabetic diagnosis, but the sugar was a definite. But after a year on the medicine, my A1C is back down to “pre-diabetes” level, my weight is down. Stress also plays a major role affecting the A1C as well. And as a long term survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, exposed to an extreme amount of radiation for treatment therapy thirty years ago, radiation can impact the pancreas which can affect the production of insulin. Great, just what I needed, yet another health issue from surviving my cancer.
Some of my fellow survivors are in the same situation as me. There are those that had huge spikes in their A1C once they stopped taking their medicine, having to return to taking the medicine, or worse, taking insulin. Since many of us have heart issues because of our treatments, we really do not need the complications of diabetes added to our lists.
A recent study by Springer states that there is a 16% increase in childhood cancer survivors who received radiation of 10Gy (units of radiation) to the pancreas. To put that into perspective, myself, and many of my fellow survivors decades ago received nearly 4000Gy.
If you are currently a normally healthy person, just keep doing what you are doing, but keep an eye on your health. Follow up annually. Get your blood levels checked. For me, and others, it is just another thing we have to add to our list. Once diagnosed with diabetes, and I know many who are, the complications only get worse. If you are lucky to be able to prevent diabetes, do it.
Thanks for this article, Paul. My numbers went up and I cut back on sugar and carbs. Diabetes also runs in my family. I have lost some weight and feel better.
Another good, informative article.
Making smart food choices can help with managing diabetes. For a time period, it was questioned whether I was prediabetic and I immediately restricted sugars to as little as possible. I ended up not being prediabetic, but to this day, I don’t drink soda.