Pros and cons

I read very few magazines that are heavy with prescription drug ads, but yesterday I was leafing through one of the exceptions, and came across an ad for a type 2 diabetes medication. I intended to keep on flipping past it, but then one of the “Q&A” questions caught my eye. The question was about whether children could take this drug. The answer was no. I felt my jaw clench. I am continually horrified that so many children are developing what used to be known as “adult onset” diabetes, largely thanks to excess body weight, junk food diets and lack of active play. The thought of putting those children on heavy drugs made me…cranky.

Naturally, I had to read the rest of the ad. It was kind of like when you pass an accident, and you know you shouldn’t look because you might not like what you see, but you do it anyway. Well, I didn’t like what I saw one little bit. I was practically howling with outrage, to be honest.

This bit slayed me: “In animal studies, [drug name] caused thyroid tumors. The effects in humans are unknown. People who use [drug name] should be counseled on the risk of MTC [medullary thyroid cancer] and symptoms of thyroid cancer.”

The effects in humans are unknown. Hello, guinea pigs? People who use this drug need to watch out for thyroid cancer? What the bloody heck?

OK, I’m going to get up on my nutrition soapbox here (I know, big shocker). Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a body weight that’s in a healthy range. Some diagnosed cases are actually treatable through those same healthy lifestyle habits.

Now, some people who have blood sugar levels so high that they’re doctor has told them “you have diabetes” won’t be able to avoid medication, it’s true, However, adopting and sticking to a healthy lifestyle can reduce the amount of medicine (with nasty potential side effects) they need to take. Let’s do a little inventory.

Drug-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named
Pros: “May improve blood sugar (glucose) in adults with type 2 diabetes when used along with diet and exercise.”
Cons: May lead to thyroid cancer, headache, nausea, diarrhea, hives and immune system problems.

Healthy diet, regular exercise and a healthy body weight:
Pros: May improve blood sugar (glucose) in children, teens and adults with type 2 diabetes. May also improve blood pressure and blood cholesterol, reduce stress and promote a general feeling of good health.
Cons: Requires some effort, planning and diligence. Can be a really big change for some people.

Do you see the point I’m making? I think that you do. Nutrition and exercise can improve your life and your health in too many ways to count. Taking medications can help one problem at the same time it creates others. Is it easier to take a pill than it is to change your diet and exercise habits? Yes it is! But why should the fact that something requires effort be a deterrent?

Think of all the things we willingly put thought, time and effort into. Getting a job promotion. Planning a wedding. Planning a vacation. Planning a surprise party. Studying for a test. Catching the eye of someone we’re interested in (only if you’re single, please). Good health is priceless…but if we want it, sometimes we’re going to have to work for it.

I’m not anti-medication. Both times I was in the hospital having major surgery, I was mighty glad for my morphine drip, thank you very much, as well as the narcotic pain meds I went home with (although I weaned myself off of them as soon as possible). And there are many health problems, common and rare, for which diet, exercise and weight control are, sadly, not solutions.

But type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure (all of which lead to heart disease)? Absolutely lifestyle related. For most people, absolutely preventable. Now, I’m going to give a big disclaimer here: Anyone who has one of these health conditions needs to get it under control, no matter what. If someone can’t or won’t do it by eating right and fitting daily exercise into their routines, then medication would be the way to go. Because having uncontrolled diabetes or uncontrolled high blood pressure is BAD NEWS. What if you’re already on meds, but you would like to try the lifestyle approach to treatment? Talk to your doctor about it, please. If you are serious about reducing or eliminating your need for medication, you and your doctor will need to form a plan for you to do it safely.

This post went on way longer than I planned. Thank you for reading it!