When you receive the diagnosis of having Type 2 diabetes, where do you start? There are certain guidelines that apply to the majority:

1) over 40
2) sedentary lifestyle
3) unhealthy diet
4) family history
5) overweight

Just as there are indicators, so too there are generalized symptoms:

1) excessive thirst
2) frequent urination
3) blurred vision
4) fatigue
5) skin irritations

I thought Type 2 wouldn’t show up until middle-age or after, and that people of normal weight would not develop it. I was sure that anyone fit – active people who regularly participated in cardio / aerobic exercise – would have some sort of natural immunity.

In tandem with the one-size-fits-all picture for likely candidates, I thought symptoms would apply to nearly everyone. I was convinced that the majority of the symptoms on the list would be present – or that at least three of them would be so pronounced as to be unmistakable.

How wrong can one person be?

A case in point:

In terms of likelihood, I had several risk factors – I was over 40, overweight, seldom exercised, and had family history of Type 2. While I ate a semi-healthy diet there were still plenty of unhealthy foods and loads of carbohydrates.

In other words, the diagnosis wasn’t necessarily a surprise.

But when it came to symptoms, virtually none of the signs applied, and those that did were relatively mild.

I wasn’t particularly thirsty, but I’ve always adhered to the eight-glasses-daily rule. I frequently go to the toilet, but that’s been true my entire adult life – you can’t drink plenty of fluids and not have to urinate often!

Blurred vision? I’m nearsighted, and slight blurriness is practically a way of life. If things become fuzzy when I’m wearing my glasses it’s an indication it’s time to have the prescription updated.

Fatigue: I’d venture to say everyone experiences fatigue at some point or another, to some degree or another. Aging, working full-time, parenting, even just maintaining a household and running errands can tire you out. Add shortened sleep cycles into the mix, and who isn’t fatigued?

Were the signs there and I missed them? Perhaps. But they were so mild that I could dismiss them – and so could the GP.

You might say “That’s just you; that scenario doesn’t apply to the majority.”

So let’s consider another case:

A relatively young man of 35, active, fit, and who pays close attention to his diet and overall health. He’s somewhat knowledgeable about Type 2 because one of his grandparents is diabetic, but he has no symptoms – and indeed, why should he? He doesn’t fit the profile.

A routine blood glucose check shows a number of over 30 – yet he feels fine. Follow-up tests are conclusive: he has indeed developed Type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, he’s able to implement aggressive lifestyle changes to cope with the disease.

That was – is – Sir Steve Redgrave, who was diagnosed in 1997.

Many Type 2’s have a belief that they’ve brought the disease on themselves – “This is my fault, I should have exercised more, lost weight, followed a healthier meal plan–”

I don’t think Sir Steve could have done anything differently to prevent Type 2 developing; certainly he didn’t bring it on himself with an unhealthy lifestyle.

Regardless of what you may have done or failed to do in terms of lifestyle, diet, exercise – this is the signpost. You are here. The question isn’t what you did in the past. The question is, what will you do now?

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Kasey Coff is an American living in Cheshire. Just turned 60, she was diagnosed with Type 2 in 2008 and focuses on “lifestyle control” as a means of diabetes management.

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