After he started on blood pressure medication, he was then diagnosed with diabetes which was the nail in his coffin. He could not get over his addiction to sugar, carbs, and other treats. I remember when I was growing up, we would sit down on a Saturday night, watch rented movies, and devour candy and chips, and guzzle sodas. They started him on a very low dose of insulin, and eventually he was supposed to check his blood four times a day and take injectable sugar. He was not great at remembering to do that; he would often have blood sugar readings in the 500 and 600 range. Target blood sugar levels range from 70-180 in people with diabetes.
Near the end, he was taking 5000-6000 mg of painkillers which didn’t even touch the pain. There were many days he would sit and cry in agony.
Dr. Oz once described diabetes as “shards of glass ripping through your veins.” This destructive illness resulted in copious complications for my dad. He developed neuropathy, or diabetic nerve damage, in his 50s and 60s. By the time he turned 70, his neuropathy was so bad that he could not sleep. Near the end, he was taking 5000-6000 mg of painkillers which didn’t even touch the pain. There were many days he would sit and cry in agony. He lost his vision and would have his corneas scraped often in a vain attempt to save his eyesight. He went deaf in one ear and had to get hearing aids. Because of the neuropathy, he would drop his hearing aids and lose them.
He had a valve infection, and needed a valve replacement. He spent over 8 weeks in an intensive care unit. For two of those weeks, doctors could not figure out what was happening. The illness not only attacked his heart, it damaged his kidneys. He ended up needing kidney dialysis for weeks on end, immediately after open heart surgery. He retained water and his feet swelled. Miraculously, he recovered from that health scare, but his depression was getting deeper, as he could no longer work and my mom had taken over as the breadwinner of the family.
My mom and dad retired in 2013, and moved to Florida as part of his dream. He was having more and more difficulty breathing. He went to the doctor in February and they discovered that the diabetes had started to attack the other valve. A week before he was supposed to go to the cardiologist to start preparing for his second open heart surgery, he had a massive heart attack and died. Though the doctor said he was feeling no pain, and it was very quick (by the time I was at his bedside, he was in a vegetative state), it was not really a quick death. He was dying for 29 years. He started dying when he was in his late 40s, and he succumbed at 76.
While it was technically his heart that killed him, obesity led to his ultimate demise. It absolutely breaks my heart to see people, especially young people, following in his footsteps. The statistics are staggering. According to the CDC, 35% of children aged 12-17 are considered morbidly obese. According to the United States Army, 75% of people aged 12-17 are not qualified for military service due to obesity and obesity related conditions. Obesity related health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and related cancers are the highest causes of death in the United States.
Death by obesity is not what many people think it is: you don’t just suddenly keel over and have a heart attack. It is a slow, painful, and horrible way to die. Please take care of yourself. You don’t have to be a fitness guru, run marathons, or go on extreme diets. All you need to do is move more, eat less, and listen to your doctor’s advice on living a healthy lifestyle. Be an example for your children and grandchildren. They will thank you, and we will lessen the obesity epidemic.
Many Kind Regards,
Obesity is an American epidemic. Read one writer's thoughts on obesity issues here.
Original image credit: mikecollar Flickr