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Diabetes Killed My Grandfather

By , SparkPeople Blogger
These days, it's hard to ignore the news of exploding increases in type 2 diabetes. According to a recently published study, nearly 350 million people worldwide now have type 2 diabetes, which is twice the number of adults who had diabetes just 30 years ago. And here in the U.S., the incidence of diabetes is rising twice as fast as in Western Europe, say researchers.

What's really scary is that diabetes doesn't just affect you in the short term. It is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, which triggers the onset of heart disease, stroke, kidney and nerve problems, and a host of other problems. These aren't just "things that happen to other people" either. These are very real consequences that can happen to anyone who isn't taking steps to keep their diabetes under control.

Despite these very real risks, a study presented last month at the 71st Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association found that nearly 90% people with diabetes know that healthier habits (like weight loss) could help their condition, but very few take any action: Only 70% tried to lose weight within the last year; less than 1/3 of those maintained that loss for more than 6 months. Only 13% had been physically active within the last week, even though 63% said their doctors has told them to start exercising.

My grandpa was one of those people. And his choice not to change his diet or lifestyle killed him.

We've never been sure whether he was in denial about his health problems, or if he just put on a brave face. Or perhaps he really thought that the dozen or so medications he took each day were controlling or curing his medical issues to the point that he didn't have to do anything else. Maybe he was too optimistic—he just figured that all that bad stuff would never happen to him. After all, his father (my great-grandpa) lived to be 103. While he wasn't an educated man, he was smart and didn't lack in resources. He did visit his doctor regularly, and he did know which foods were good for him and which weren't. But no matter what we said to him, what foods we tried to show him, or how many scares he had at the doctor's office or hospital (his final years were marked by multiple visits to the ER, long stays in intensive care, dialysis for kidney failure, and more), he seemed to always bounce back—and he never changed his ways. We all know that it was these unhealthy habits—a lack of physical activity, a diet of fast food, frozen meals and restaurant fare that was high in fat, sodium and calories and low in vital nutrients—that took his life much too early. He died at the age of 72, a mere 8 years after his official diabetes diagnosis.

When I read stats about diabetes increasing, or meet people with diabetes who aren't taking steps to lose weight or get active, I think of him. He was one of the coolest people I ever knew, a person who was fun and hilarious and whose booming voice and laughter would fill our ears and now, our memories. We still miss him every day. Perhaps you know someone like him.

So why is it that people know what they need to do but simply won't do it? Maybe they know general things, but not specifics. Maybe it seems too hard. Maybe they don't realize the real consequences of NOT changing. Perhaps they don't have the motivation or support to keep it going. I do think that in many cases, people just don't know where to begin. Whatever the reason, there are a lot of resources available that can help people with diabetes get started—and stay motivated.
In the last year, I've been working really diligently with the SparkPeople staff and our experts to add more diabetes information and features to the SparkPeople.com. From articles about better food choices to our popular 8-Week Diabetes Weight Loss Challenge, to our brand new Spark*D Diabetes Management Program and weekly diabetes newsletters, we're doing everything we can to provide resources and tools that will help people with diabetes rewrite the future. And all of these tools are 100% free and accessible to anyone with Internet access.
We all know what a huge problem diabetes is, and it's only predicted to increase worldwide over the years. While the story of my grandpa is a sad one for our family, yours doesn't have to be. Every day, people with diabetes are learning to manage their condition to prevent these unwelcome outcomes—and it really isn't that hard. Anyone can choose to do it. Yes, it can be scary and overwhelming at first, and yes, it will be difficult. There will be setbacks, like most things in life. But doing something  (taking the stairs, walking for 10 minutes, learning to read food labels, preparing just one more meal at home, losing just a 10 pounds) will help more than doing nothing.
I write this post in honor of my grandfather and I hope you will take this story to heart. If anyone you know has type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes (or could be at risk), I hope you will share this story with them so they, too, can take advantage of SparkPeople's free Spark*D program and resources. Together, we can change our future and get healthier!

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Thank you for this wonderful post. Thank you for sharing all the resource information also Report
ATHENA2010 7/19/2020
My grandmother took her diabetes seriously and controlled what she ate. She lived a healthy life to 80. But I ignored my diagnosis for several years...combination of depression and the feeling that everything I did to lose weight never worked, even starving myself (which led to overeating again). Finally, my sister convinced me to EAT MORE...but just whole, real foods. No more processed foods, sugar, or most carbs. Wow..the weight just started falling off! And I felt so much better! I've lost 100 pounds and have a 100 more to go..been on a plateau for about a year..but heading back down now. It helps me be more serious about my health. I love SparkPeople because of the support and the inspiration others give me. Thanks for sharing your story. Report
Thank you for sharing your personal family experience and for also posting information that "SparkPeople" offer to assist others towards a more healthier lifestyle. Report
EVIE4NOW 6/30/2020
Thank you! Report
GEORGE815 6/3/2020
Thanks Report
GEORGE815 3/30/2020
Thanks Report
SNUZYQ2 2/26/2020
Wow...72 years old is actually so young to pass away. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for telling his story. It is very motivating for anyone with diabetes! Report
SURFIE 1/27/2020
I'm afraid this will be my dad some day. He's already at the "last chance" stage with medication. And he had such bad side effects from the last med his doctor put him on that he has stopped taking it. While those side effects did make him lose 15 pounds, so that the rest of his meds are working more efficiently (but still not good enough), the weight is just going to pile right back on in a few weeks if he doesn't make true lifestyle changes. I think in part that he truly wants to, but he also doesn't want to give anything up. :( He doesn't want his health enough. I'm praying that will change, and that he'll realize that a lot of the things he loves to do - camping, hiking, backpacking - will not only be more accessible but will actually help him to be healthier! Report
So sorry to hear about your grandfather. Great info, though. Thanks! Report
Coach Nicole, you will probably not ever see this but my condolences for the loss of your grandfather. My paternal grandmother died at 59 due to ignoring her doctor's instructions for diabetic self care. I don't know if it just didn't sink in that it was serious or what. I was quite young when she died and barely remember her. I am finally prediabetic after years of wildly reactive hypoglycemia and taking it seriously with the help of SparkPeople. Thanks for all you have done over the years. I still love your videos! Report
This is an older topic, but I want to add a couple of thoughts. First of all - surprise - not everyone with Type 2 diabetes is sedentary and overweight. I've been struggling with pre-diabetes since my 20s (when I had high blood sugars during pregnancy) and I weighed merely 115 lbs. I've been active all my life - I've been a runner for years - and I eat healthy. I've never drank sodas, and I've never eaten many sweets. In my 50s I am physically fit and at a normal weight but I now have full-blown Type 2 diabetes. I'm SO TIRED of hearing how this is caused by "lifestyle." Every day I see friends and family who are obese, eat junk food, and don't exercise and their blood sugars are normal while mine aren't. Articles like this perpetuate the blame towards people who have T2D by implying that if they would just clean up their act they could avoid it. Also, I'd like to add that at least part of this "epidemic" of T2D has something to do with new diagnostic criteria. The A1c and fasting BG levels used to diagnose T2D have been adjusted downward - if you cast a larger net, you will catch more fish. (I am one of those people whose numbers just barely fall into this new range.) So that is another factor that needs to be included in a discussion of the increasing numbers of people with this condition. The take-away message from this article is that there is an epidemic of diabetes due to poor lifestyle habits and while there may be some correlation, it isn't as simple as saying that we caused it by eating too much and we can cure it by losing weight. Report
Thank you Nicole. Even though my mother & father were not diabetic they both lost a brother to it. All 8 members of my family, brothers & sisters were diabetic. None were particularly adherent to a food or exercise plan. My DH & I are also diabetic I try to eat wisely keeping our carbs lower but I will admit to not enough exercise. Report
I found this You Tube Ted Talk changed my life--just type in your search bar- Dr Sarah Hallberg Ted Talk Report
Nicole, Thanks for sharing this. I know it's an older article, but still relevant today. I have tried many times to get diabetes under control but always gave up--it just seemed too hard and I got tired of failing. My check-up in Feb. had my A1C at 9.0, and for some reason, my doctor said some things that got to me. So I came back to SP that day, determined not just to "lose weight", but to adopt a healthy lifestyle. My A1C is 7.7 14 weeks later, I have loads of energy, walk at least 2-3 miles every day. And cut my insulin dosage in half. When I take my BS after a long walk, I am DELIGHTED to realize that my body is doing the work and pumping out the insulin. It's a long shot, but I hope to eliminate the shots entirely as my health continues to improve. I am 66, your grandad was only 6 years older than me when he passed. I don't want my family missing me, I want to be there for graduations, marriages, etc. Thanks again!
Type 2 Diabetes is NOT high blood glucose. Diabetes is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is STARTED BY diet. Only diet can cure it. It is critical to understand that "pre-diabetes" is ALREADY DIABETES. It is that phase of diabetes where the insulin is creeping up and still managing to keep the blood sugars down. But the high and constant levels of insulin are already damaging your body.

Are you FAT? Are you on spark people? Then you are almost certainly already developing insulin resistance. Your insulin levels are already above healthy ranges. What you are eating is flooding your blood with sugar, forcing insulin to rise, making you fat.

You cannot cure diabetes with drugs. FAT is a SYMPTOM of diabetes. High blood glucose is a SYMPTOM of diabetes.

Stop eating ALL high glycemic carbs. FORCE your blood glucose below 100, but NOT WITH INSULIN or drugs. Taking insulin to combat insulin resistance is a death spiral.

Diabetes is not a death sentence. But only diet can reverse it. Report
I was diagnosed with type II diabetes in Dec. I am also dairy (cow) and gluten intolerant which makes planning meals a nightmare. Although I am trying very hard to pay attention to diet (eat at home a lot more and track everything with Spark) exercise (treadmill 5 times a week if I'm not being active enough) I have only managed to lose 12 lbs. At this rate at 71 I will die of natural causes before I can lose the 70 lbs more that needs to go Lol. I keep trying and my dear husband keeps me going but it's a very trying way to live I must admit It has taken the fun and spontaneity out of life for me but I keep trying. Report
So sorry for your loss. Both of my parents and all nine of their offspring have been diagnosed with diabetes. So I have lived to see both parents and 2 sisters and and 2 brothers die with associated complications. It takes a will to live, following doctor's orders, eating right, exercise, and proper medication to prolong your life. The disease can not be cured but it can be reversed and/or managed. I am and my remaining siblings are trying to break the cycle that has claimed the lives of so many by following a monitored/prescribed plan. Report
I am sorry for your loss, Coach Nicole. As a type 1 diabetic for 20 years I would like everyone to understand, treating Diabetes is a full time 24/7 job. On insulin you have to monitor your BS at least 4x a day and more if you are sick, or have lows. You have to adjust everything when you exercise, eat out, have a celebration, etc. IF you have Celiac Disease or food allergies you have to choose from a limited number of food choices. What is easier to control when you are younger gets harder as you get older and your body changes. You are frustrated because you can do everything you are supposed to do and your BS are still high. I do try to eat right, exercise and take my insulin as prescribed. As a person with Gluten Intolerance I balance a GF diet as well as low carb, low cholesterol. In the last year I have stabilized my A1C. I am concentrating this year on weight losssandincreasing exercise. My point in all this is that remembering to take your meter, insulin, or meds with you everywhere. Deciding if you can safely do some activity with friends on the spur of the moment, not being able to eat out at will be in GF for some like me, etc is overwhelming. Sometimes I wish I could just be normal and not have to do all this, but I do it. I fall sometimes, but I get right up and back in the game. Next time you are frustrated with your loved ones try to put yourself in their shoes and maybe it will help you better help them. We love our families and would not want to hurt you for the world. Sometimes we just do not know how to cope or we are in denial. Report
My mother had diabetes, but she worked hard in trying to control it. She was 85 when she passed and had the disease for 23 years. My two older sisters and one younger sister has it. The disease runs on both sides of my family. I try to get my 10,000 steps during the week and I concentrate on fixing healthy meals at home. I have been trying to lose 10# for the last year. I lose a few then seem to put it back on. I am now concentrating more on lifting weights to see how that works, but it is a struggle. Report
Sorry about your grandfather and all he endured. It was like reading a story about my dad. Same circumstances, my dad passed at 77. Glad you are trying to educate people about diabetes. Report
Also interesting to note, msnyh of the pancreatic cancer patients I encountered during my career as a Hospice nurse were long time diabetics. I also saw the same thing with primary site liver cancer (was considered a rare cancer) . That is plenty scary for me and not something that you will find out from your doctor. Report
I am sorry for your loss. I too lost a loved one to this terrible disease...actually I guess more than one since it was diabetes that most likely caused or helped other diseases to take over.
I don't tell people that diabetes and heart disease is in the family tree...I tell them it is the whole dang orchard!!!!!
My baby brother laid down for a nap after work and never woke back up. Autopsy said heart but his blood sugar so way out of control for years. He left behind a wife and 2 very young children.
I have been "on the fence" so to say...with at times my foot reaching the wrong side....but after a heart attack in the spring have lost nearly 25 lbs with a smarter diet plan and get out and "hoof" the roads.
At 65 I am the so far the only sibling to not be diagnosed to be a diabetic....others in the family were in their early 30's and 40's to be diagnosed......I am blessed so far....and although I was told many years ago by a dietitian that is what not a matter of "IF" I become a diabetic but rather "WHEN".....I am trying my best to prove her wrong!!! Report
I am one of the at risk people. My mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in her late 50's. She was the opposite of the gentleman in this article. She really took it to heart. She quit smoking, managed her diabetes with diet and exercise. She didn't have to start taking insulin until her 70's. She is still going strong at 83. I, thankfully, have good blood sugar numbers when I get tested. But should that ever change I have a great example that it can be dealt with even though it may be tough. Report
Thank you so much for writing this wonderful story to help convince those of us who need to do something to do it. I am pre-diabetic and my A1C had risen to 6.4 before I started diet and exercise. Today it is down to 5.7 and I am hoping to normal soon. Thank you again for all you do. I am so sorry you lost your grandfather. Peace. Report
Thanks for your story I had diabetes and was increasing last year. Thank God I no longer have diabetes. Report
I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for the increased number of diabetes articles. Report
Other than being about 20 years younger than the gentleman described in this article, my husband is exactly the same way. He was diagnosed two years ago and, although he initially expressed a desire to adopt healthier habits, he has yet to do anything about his condition. Watching him, I have to conclude that he DOES know the specific, DOES understand the consequences of NOT changing, and DOES know that this disease WILL kill him. He simply isn't willing to change. As you can imagine, I find his resignation very frustrating, but there is nothing I can do, other than accept him and love him as he is, unless/until HE decides he wants to do something about it. Nagging doesn't work. Report
Diet helps with diabetes, but I'll tell you from experience that exercise helps even more. My blood sugar was 125-150, I know pre - diabetic, but I didn't want to end up on the pills like my parents, brother, and husband so I started walking. 1 hour (about 3 miles for me so not fast) every day and my blood sugar dropped to 100. Late last year I had a knee injury that kept me from walking daily for several weeks, sure enough my blood sugar started rising again. Back to walking now and it's back down. Report
My Dad had diabetes and many other health problems associated with it. He lost the use of his kidneys and was on dialysis 3 times a week. In the end he chose not to watch his food intake or attempt to increase his activity level. I believe that he just gave up. He no longer had the energy to live.

I have lost 75 lbs since being diagnosed with diabetes. My blood sugar is under control. If anything it runs a bit too low because some days it it hard for me to get it above 100. my doctor says that I need to watch the amount of exercising that I am doing. Report
My Dad too suffered and I mean suffered with diabetes. Ten days before he died we had to have his right leg amputated above his knee in an effort to save him from all the infections he contracted. This made my Dad a double amputee. The first amputation approximately 8 months earlier seem to have save him from the gangerine that was ravishing his feet. We had hope of him being okay. But diabetes is unforgiving and extremely distructive not only physically but mentally and emotionally for everyone that is involved. I have lost 91 pounds and have kept it off my butt for about 6 months now. And I know my Dad is routing for me everyday! God bless you Nicole and your family. I know it must hurt you all just like it hurts us. Report
i can relate on too many levels. diabetes has killed several folk on both sides of my family and left my dad a double amputee. i ain't gonna lie--this illness scared me into getting serious about losing weight. 10% loss of body weight means a significant improvement in too many areas to list. Report
It was the scare of becoming diabetic that actually changed my life! Just about every member on my mom's side of the family (except my mom so far) are diabetic.
When I was at my highest weight and had my blood checked, I was told I was becoming *dangerously close* to being diabetic.

Found SparkPeople shortly after that blood test!
Look at me now!! Report
My dad, his sister, my mom's sister and a couple of cousins had diabetes. Daddy died from complications of diabetes and lung cancer( another big no no) I do family history and many of my ancestors died of diseases brought on by this disease. Heart disease, gangren of the leg, strokes, kidney disease etc. I now have been told I have it, my son has it. His A1C is over 7. He will not change. He is a 37 yr. old single dad, works 50+ hours a week, has 2 kids, no money and no time. He will not take the doc seriously. I hope we can controll this. Sorry for all the losses mentioned, we all hurt from this. Report
Hi Nicole, I am sorry about your grandfather. I watched my mother destroy her health with cigarettes and understand the frustration. Today, I heard on television about studies that the additives in some of the foods we eat have the same chemical response in the brain as marijuana. I hope we don't find that the food industry has been purposely doing this as the cigarette industry did for years. I don't know whether it is just not caring or not wanting to or can't or denial, but sometimes for me it is just easier to grab something I am familiar with, instead of having to learn something new. Truly sorry about your grandfather. You really know what you do here on spark is so important. Thank you for what you do to encourage us and teach us. Report
Hi Nicole Nichols, many members of my family have got/had diabetes, my late Father had it, my Aunt, Uncle, & Cousin all have it, my Grandad (Mums Dad) had it, both my Sister & i have been tested 4 it (we were both clear), & many other members also have it 2. Report
Coach Nicole I lost my dad over 5 yrs ago since he didn't do what he should have either. But thanks to his loss I seen how my eating caused me to be overweight. I have PCOS and am pre-diabetic. I am doing what he never did. I am watching carbs eating healthy and exercising. I have long way to go but I have come a long way too. Report
Diabetes killed my grandfather too. He was in his 80's and it was the 60's, but his legs were gangrenous and he refused to have them amputated, so it killed him pretty quickly. He was master of what I practiced for years--ignoring what is true, what is happening to your body because you refuse to take care of it. I wish it had not taken me so long to wake up. Report
Thank you so much for posting this article. I just ran into a friend of the familythat had a toe amputated a few weeks ago. I was planning on telling him about SparkPeople this week and I have printed this article for him to read.

I am sorry for your loss of your grandpa. I know how hard it is to ache for the one you miss. What I have learned all these years later is that taking care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle is a blessing not just for yourself, but for the whole family. Report
Diabetes killed my dad too this February...I would never get over it... :( Report
Sorry for your loss and the inspiration of your story, I have been diagnosed post my brother and mother and I am going to share this story with them because both have a hard time with making changes and I am not ready to loose either one of them. Report
For what it's worth, you have my sincere condolences. Sometimes its easier to see what needs to be done by family than it is for the person. I know my Dad didn't always take the best care of himself but damned if he was going to listen to anyone else. Report
I'm sorry with your loss and plan on sharing this with a dear friend who was recently - in her 40's diagnosed w/ type 2 and with staff at the University of Pittsburgh who have various diabetes programs - so they can offer yet another tool - as you are aware different people will take advantage of different tools.
Those you help to save in the name of your Grandfather will carry his legacy! Report
I really loved reading this article. My dad was diagnoised with type 1 then with type 2 diabetes. He's only 48. He was the reason I decided to really get serious about weight loss. Since that time we both have made some strides. He has loss 50+ pounds and I have lost 45. Report
Type II Diabetes killed my mother. She was only 65 and died in 2000. She was in denial about the seriousness of the disease, and likely depressed as well, which kept her from taking care of herself and made her feel hopeless and fatalistic. She had total kidney failure, was going blind, had a heart attack. Her father (my grandfather) also had Type II diabetes and may have died from its peripheral complications (stroke, cardiovascular failure). And now I have it.

I struggle with my weight which is the major factor right now in getting me healthier. Unlike my mom, I monitor myself, confer with my doctor regularly, and have hopes of living a long productive and happy life. I'm only 54 and don't intend to let this disease kill me prematurely. Luckily no medications are yet needed so exercise and diet are key. Report
So sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing this story. All I have to add is that thanks to SP and you, I went from pre-diabetic at high risk in February with some pretty poor blood test results to normal with some pretty good test results in May. I'm not completely out of the woods yet; but, even my endocrinologist was amazed. So, it really does work! Thanks!
Chris Report
Unfortunately my mother is like this. She was told that she was pre-diabetic but did nothing to change her ways. Now she has diabetes and stays away from sugar but is still obese. Now she is on a total of 6 medications up from 2. I don't live near her so I can't make sure that she exercises. I wish she would change but I really doubt it. Report
Sorry for your loss. My husband was diagnosed with diabetes in his late 30's about 5 years after the high blood pressure meds. He died at 51 and I do miss him. However, I agree with CLCCOOL . In fact, I think you need to realize that many of the pills and finally insulin prescribed cause severe depletion of many of the necessary elements in the body. In fact, a new study suggests that certain diabetic meds actually reduce the amount of Nitric Oxide available in the body at the cellular level which is needed desperately to survive . Further, I know 2 guys who've 'cured' their diabetes by going on the Atkins diet rather than taking insulin which requires 1 hr exercise a day. And now out of the UK an 8 week 600 cal a day diet "cured" a majority of the participants which were only 12 appears to reduce the 'fat' in the pancreas. Scientists presented their findings at the conference of the American Diabetes Association says that diet can help remove the fat in the pancreas that makes insulin in normal results. published in the guardian june 24 2011
Thank you for this important blog and tribute to your grandfather. It is important for people to realize taking steps DOES make a difference and that we are not isolated beings - what we do (or don't do) affects others.
I've said similar things about my Dad who smoked, and died much too young - before the last grandchild was born, before any of the grandkids graduated high school or college... So please, anyone listening, please try to kick the habit and get help if you can't do it on your own. We want you around for a long time. Report
Thank you for sharing...reading your story was like reading about my Mom. She died from complications of diabetes. After her triple bypass surgery, her wound wouldn't heal and she had infections. Eventually she passed...right before her 73rd birthday. The doctors said her heart was that of a 40 year old, but, because of her diabetes, she couldn't heal. She also took a wide array of meds, but, didn't follow a healthful lifestyle. Doctors are quick to prescribe meds and I find that people are also quick to take them. I promised myself I will not do that and I hope through my example, neither will my kids. Again, thank you and I wish you well... Report
This hit home for me cause diabetes killed my grandfather 12 days before my 6th birthday. Even though I was young I remember him suffering, I remember coming home one day with my mom and finding my grandpa lying on the floor. It is so tragic how many lives are effected by diabetes. Report
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