In her early 40′s Heather is in the kind of physical condition that most of us would like to have been in our thirties or twenties. She is athletic, muscular, and has that healthy glow of someone who eats all their fruits and veggies. In fact, Heather would not be out of place as a model in one of those catalogs for women’s outdoor athletic wear. You know, the catalogs where the model is climbing a rocky crag or slack lining between two palm trees on a sandy beach and there is a little side note which says ‘Heather-educator, mom, and locavore’. Yet, earlier this year she found herself checking in with the doctor concerned about some worrying symptoms.
I was super fatigued, low energy and by mid afternoon everyday I wanted to take a nap. I felt foggy, my fingers and toes tingled. At first I explained it away…it was my sleeping position, I’d stopping breastfeeding etc., but I was peeing twenty times a day, and at night I might get up 5 times in an hour to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t explain that away. I went to the doctor.
A hemoglobin A1c test revealed that Heather was prediabetic. Her suspicions confirmed, Heather shares that she felt empowered by the knowledge of what had ailed her. Now she knew what was wrong she also knew that there was something that she could do about the diagnosis.
Heather sought help in modifying her diet and increased her exercise. (The Diabetes Education Program at Tucson Medical Center provides individual counseling for physician-referred patients with Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes) Her diet hadn’t been terrible prior, although she describes it as ‘quality junk food’. Yes, she was cooking from scratch, using organic foods, but it was still cookies she was eating, or ice cream, and vast amounts of fruit. She cut back on the obvious culprits, the sugary carbs: cookies, ice cream and fruit, but also the starchy vegetables, breads, rice and dried fruits and she upped her leafy greens. Rather than exercising intensely 2-3 times a week as she had before she started exercising 4-5 times a week, not as intensely, but more often.
Heather’s approach mirrors the advice Nancy Klug RN, CDE, coordinator of the Diabetes Education Program, suggests for people who are prediabetic:
1. Start walking regularly
2. Lower your carbohydrate portions at meals
3. Meet with a Certified Diabetes Educator for training.
Rapidly, Heather’s symptoms have disappeared. Heather is due for a follow-up blood test, hopefully to confirm what she suspects from the disappearance of her symptoms that she is no longer prediabetic. However, even if she is no longer prediabetic Heather is committed to these new eating and exercise habits. “I have so much more energy, and I’m thinking so much more clearly.” Heather hopes to have caught the prediabetes before it escalated into diabetes, but she knows that this is an ongoing challenge. Her advice to someone newly diagnosed -
1. Ask lots of questions.
2. Make sure you are clear about what the recommendations mean. Especially, seek help regarding the nutritional recommendations.
Nancy Klug stresses the importance of meeting with a Certified Diabetes Educator explaining that misconceptions about diabetes are rife. People think they can never eat sugar again or that if they have to go on insulin, they have failed. Nancy explains some people diagnosed with prediabetes or borderline diabetes dismiss the diagnosis as just a minor thing which is a huge mistake, or think that if they just lose weight the diabetes will go away. With the help of a Certified Diabetes Educator you can come up with a plan to manage successfully your diabetes.