Diabetes and Trucking

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, so let’s take a few minutes to talk about diabetes and what can be done.

Recent studies show that Professional Truck Drivers have a 50% greater chance of becoming diabetic than the general population. Estimates put the number at around 500,00 drivers who currently have diabetes. According to the CDC, of the approximately 30.2 million diabetics in the US, 7.2 million people are undiagnosed. The sedentary lifestyle and lack of healthy food choices at many truck stops, certainly contribute to this number. As a Type 2 diabetic myself, I can tell you the diagnosis wasn’t completely unexpected, but it was still a shocking revelation. I immediately regretted the poor, yet delicious, choices I made daily in the candy aisle and the beverage cooler. 

Symptoms

Diabetes can go undetected for a very long time. You may have no symptoms at all. Some of the symptoms include excessive thirst and urination. It’s sometimes easy to ignore frequent urination, because we’ve been thirsty and drink a lot. Makes sense, right? However, when blood sugars are high, the kidneys work to dispose of the excess sugar, causing more frequent urination.

Other symptoms may also include fatigue, weight loss, or blurred vision. If you have any of these symptoms, please consult your doctor. Diagnosing diabetes early is key to managing it. 

Allowing diabetes to go unchecked can lead to complications such as kidney damage, which may lead to dialysis, eye damage that could result in blindness, or an increased risk of heart disease or stroke. 

Types of Diabetes

The most common types of diabetes: 

  • Pre-Diabetes: This is the condition where the blood sugar is high, but not quite high enough to qualify as Type 2 diabetic. Without treatment, this is likely to turn into Type 2 diabetes within 10 years. Lifestyle and diet change can reverse this, but it can last for years, and if undiagnosed or treated, can develop into Type 2. 
  • Type 1: This is also known as Juvenile Diabetes, and typically appears in adolescence, but can appear in adults. This type of diabetes is when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. It can be treated, but it can’t be cured - it can last for years, up to a lifetime.
  • Type 2: Also called Adult Onset Diabetes, this condition is created when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or can’t process the insulin. This is also called insulin resistance. Diet and exercise can help, but antidiabetic medications are usually required.
  • Gestational: This is also called diabetes during pregnancy. It can lead to Type 2. It can be managed with diet, exercise, and daily blood sugar monitoring. Medications are also sometimes required.

What Can You Do?

Since diabetes can only be diagnosed by testing, ask your doctor for the test. It’s a quick blood draw called A1C, and it can determine your blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. Once the results are in, your doctor can help determine a plan of action. The key is to get diagnosed, putting off or ignoring it will not magically make it go away. 

Diabetes is manageable, I’ve been doing it for six years now. You can still eat the foods you enjoy, just not as often, nor in the same quantities. There are also a lot of delicious alternatives that can help with cravings. Trust me, bread and potatoes are my weak spot, and I’ve found some replacements that are quite good. 

There are also many groups on social media that will help you stay on track with the lifestyle changes. One group on Facebook is “OTR Drivers Living With Diabetes”. I’m sure there are others as well, please feel free to comment below and share. There are a lot of drivers dealing with this chronic disease, so a little encouragement is always good!

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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