For most people, being diagnosed with diabetes is a life-changing moment. As an Exercise Physiologist I see many patients who have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes merely days before I see them, and hence an important part of my role is educating them about their new health burden.
I see this time in their lives as being similar to hitting a fork in the road. They have been hit by a change which forces them to make an important choice. The difficulty is that both roads look the same from the start, and it is only when you begin travelling down the road that you can truly see what each road holds.
Lets take the easy road first. You begin the journey right where you left off before you got told you had diabetes. Your diet and exercise habits don’t change because you feel the same now as you did the day before you knew you had diabetes. You convince yourself – you don’t feel unwell so you couldn’t be that bad. As you continue down the road you begin to notice that the road itself becomes tough.
Uncontrolled diabetes is very closely linked to more sinister health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, eye problems and stroke. Type 2 diabetes was identified as the 6th leading cause of death in a position statement released by the American Heart Association in 2009. The tougher it gets, the more you realize you need to turn around and take the other road. The problem is that by this stage it is often too hard to make your way back, let alone find your way!
Now lets discover the other road – the one that inspires you to exercise, change your eating habits and undergo the lifestyle overhaul. Initially it seems like a big change. From experience, regular exercise is a foreign concept to most people in this situation. In fact approximately 74% of people with Type 2 Diabetes perform no regular exercise or have inadequate levels of exercise to impact on their health condition (Diabetes in Australia: A Snapshot, 2004-05, Australian Bureau of Statistics). It is a hard road to embark on as you now have to “find time” to exercise, and let’s face it - initially it hurts! However over time through persistence your body becomes stronger and adapts to a regular exercise regime. You now begin to “make time” for exercise because it has reached the stage where you feel good about exercising and can see the benefits of your hard work. Enter the fairy tale ending where you live happily ever after.
Hitting this fork in the road is a stressful time, and something that you do not have to conquer alone. Having a good support network of health professionals can help to shine light on both roads, revealing what lies ahead and guiding us towards better health. We often get told that life wasn’t meant to be easy, and sometimes what seems like the hard road initially is the one that makes us stronger and opens up better opportunities in the long run.
Suzy Oglesby is an exercise physiologist and a bone density technician at BJC Health.
BJC Health provides a connected care multidisciplinary team philosophy to deliver positive lifestyle outcomes through a holistic approach to those with degenerative & inflammatory arthritis, tendon injury and lifestyle diseases. Our clinics are located in Parramatta, Chatswood and Brookvale. Contact us.
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