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Author: Julie Reed

Perfection is Overrated: Staying Healthy and Sane Over the Holidays

Women, this is not the time to buy that issue of Martha Stewart’s Living, or to pore through the latest issue of Real Simple (it’s not really that simple…)You’ll risk feeling all kinds of inadequate as you read lists of '10 Perfect Holiday Hostess Gifts.' Click To TweetPhotos of elaborate centerpieces will have you eyeing your own cluttered dining room with loathing, or at least guilt.

The best way to hold it together over the holiday season is to keep it simple (with a lower case “s”) and keep your eye on the prize—family, friends, health, happiness.  It’s not about having the perfectly decorated home, the ideal gifts for your kids’ teachers, or a pile of gorgeously wrapped presents for your family.

Rushing around to take photos for your holiday card midway through December? Do a New Year’s greeting instead. Everyone will look happier and more relaxed if the photos aren’t taken under duress. Or forget sending cards altogether. You can break your own rules if they are causing you more stress than pleasure.

If you do host gatherings, focus on being genuine in your hospitality, not “perfect”. Perfection is an unattainable illusion and it takes away from your ability to really be present with people you’ve invited into your home. Our house is typically chaotic, never entirely clean, and undeniably imperfect. Time and again, guests have said that our desire to host parties gives them confidence to host their own, since we don’t wait until everything is “just so” (the kitchen fully painted, the laundry all folded and put away, the weeds pulled) to have people over. At first I wondered if I should be offended that friends commented  this way on the state of our house, but I quickly took it as a true compliment, and I felt proud that I could inspire others to share their homes, their lives, in all their beautiful imperfection.

Reminding ourselves that was are “good enough ‘ (hosts, friends, parents, workers) is important, especially at this time of the year when there is so much pressure to attend and host events, buy or make gifts, and look like we’ve got it under control.  And allowing ourselves to be “real” about what we can and cannot do, what we do and do not feel capable of, serves to remind others that they too are “good enough” just as they are.

Kate Middleton has a baby AND a baby bump! More about the Postpartum Body

So it seems to be big news that Kate Middleton was photographed with a visible bump when she and Prince William left the hospital with wee baby George. Some posted comments on both news and gossip blogs pondering how it was possible that she was ALREADY pregnant and showing. Really? That would be quite a miracle. This response unfortunately reflects the unrealistic expectations for new mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy bodies immediately following giving birth.

The truth is, of course, that it takes a while for the uterus, that a day or two before held a dozen pounds of baby, placenta, and fluid to shrink to its usual size (that of a fist). It takes up to eight weeks for this process to be complete. So that bump is perfectly normal.

Breastfeeding aides in the return of the uterus to its original size.  Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which causes uterine contractions, slowing bleeding and helping the organ to shrink. For women who’ve already given birth, these contractions are sometimes painful, like early labor–typically not the case for first births. But there is no way that any woman, breastfeeding or not, will have a flat postpartum belly.

Tucson’s own Jade Beall, whose photographs of mothers’ bodies in all their un-Photoshopped glory have received staggering attention around the globe recently, commented on the Kate’s post-baby photo on The Daily Beast:

This is a historic moment for women around the world. Kate has chosen to confidently show what our bodies can look like after undergoing one of the most life-changing feats a human can experience.”

I, for one, was thrilled to see Kate not only hiding under a tent-like dress, as was done in previous generations, but actually rocking an empire waist, accentuating the perfectly normal body of a brand-new mom. (Of course she also had perfectly coiffed hair, but that’s how it works when you have your own full-time stylist. Hey, I wouldn’t have minded a nice shampoo and blow-out after delivery…)

It’s so wonderful that what must be the most widely seen photo of a new mom this year is both beautiful and educational.Thank you, Kate, for not hiding the normal belly of a new mother. And thank you Jade, for your work in sharing the beauty of bodies in all their glorious forms.

Friendship for Health – Leeanna’s Story

mardi grasSo far we’ve been talking about the ways in which friendships keep us healthy. We’ve heard from women who’ve been buoyed by the support of their friends. We have explored the science behind what we’ve always known—-that our friends can be lifelines.

This story is a little different. Leeanna Murphy, Application Specialist for Patient Financial Services at TMC, received a gift from a friend that was directly intended to maintain Leeanna’s health.

In 2011, Leeanna was out of work for the better part of a year. Unemployment benefits covered mortgage and some utilities, and the rest of her living expenses came from her meager savings. Any “wants” were eliminated from her budget in order to cover the “needs”.

Leeanna had had bariatric surgery a couple years before her unemployment, after a lifelong battle with obesity. She could only eat small meals, and working out provided a great deal of stress relief. One could argue that her gym membership fell into the “need” column as it was a big part of her overall health maintenance. But when it’s a matter of having a roof over one’s head, or not, gym memberships become optional.

She still had a few months left on her current membership at the time of her layoff and was wondering where the next payment might come from, if she was able to pay it at all. Not only did her workouts keep her healthy, but in her water aerobics class she had a supportive and caring group of friends.

Relationships were very important to Leeanne, who through her work with a life coach had learned to think of friends as filling different roles in her life. She imagined herself giving a performance on stage, and envisioned the people she’d want in the front row, cheering her on. Those friends, she knew, were her real, true friends. Other people she better imagined in balcony seats–these people maybe weren’t those who she could count on to be there for her.

She had quite a few friends who would invite her out for meals and movies because they knew how hard it was for her being in the house all day on the computer looking for a new position. They knew she was stir crazy. These true friends were there for her, keeping her from feeling low during a rough time.

One day, a friend of over twenty years took her to lunch as a way of provided a much-needed interruption from what had become a fairly dull routine. During the meal, Leeanna’s friend asked if she was still working out. She knew how important Leeanna’s workout time was to her, physically, socially, and psychologically. Leeanna told her she would continue to go to the gym as long as she could afford it, but eventually the expense would be too much. Their conversation turned to other topics and Leeanna enjoyed the rest of her time with her dear and wonderful friend.

Later that day she received an email from her longtime friend. After lunch, the friend stopped at Leeanna’s gym and paid her membership for four months. This allowed Leeanna to continue working out to alleviate stress and maintain her weight during her unemployment.

Not only was she able to maintain her physical health, but she learned that her life was full of supportive, caring people and was reminded that regardless of her circumstances, she always had cheerleaders. When she did find a new job, her weight had been maintained and her spirit was alive.

Leeanna said, “Believe it or not, the eight months of unemployment, though hard, gave me some of my greatest times of joy. I learned much during that time. I learned that no matter what, life is a joy to live. I learned that I am just as strong as I always wanted to be. Most of all I learned that people in my life are special and wonderful–just the type of people who would belong in the front row of the theater for my debut performance.”

Friendship for survival & healing – Facing Breast Cancer

This is Alicia S’s story of how her friends supported her during her diagnosis with and treatment for cancer.

AliciaIn 2006, I had a biopsy after finding a lump in my breast. My baseline mammogram a few months earlier was all clear, as was the second one I had after finding the lump, so I wasn’t that worried. Also, I had no family history of breast cancer, no lifestyle risk factors, and, well, I was young.

But in a phone call that I’ll never forget, I was told that I did in fact have breast cancer. How could this be true? I was forty years old, and had two little kids. I actually told the nurse who called me “That’s impossible. I have two young boys.”

In short order, I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Everything you’ve heard about chemo is true, at least it was for me–I felt worse than I’d ever felt in my life. But my friends did everything they could to make things easier for me.

One of my friends, Kassie, organized dinner for my family for the week of each of my chemo treatments. Different women brought amazing dinners every night and several others packed my older son’s lunch and delivered it to him at school. Knowing that my kids’ lives maintained some semblance of normalcy, even though I couldn’t think about food, let alone cook a meal, was so comforting. The hardest part about my diagnosis and treatment was wondering how my boys would be affected. Thanks to my friends, our home still felt like a home, even while I was unable to get out of bed because of nausea and pain.

After several harrowing follow-up biopsies in the span of several months, I ended up getting a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. Enough was enough. The stress of waiting for lab results was incredibly hard to bear and I didn’t want that to be part of my life anymore.

A mastectomy is no simple surgery, and the process of reconstructing breasts is complicated and painful, especially when tissue expanders are placed under the pectoral muscles to make room for implants. Because I had radiation, my skin wasn’t very elastic. My amazing friend Patty, a gifted massage therapist, worked on my pecs and shoulders, pro bono, before each fill of my tissue expanders during reconstruction, which went a very long way in cutting down pain and making me more relaxed before the treatments. Also, I was able to actually enjoy some time with her, even if it wasn’t in a usual social situation.

Besides Kassie, Patty, and the friends who made dinners, there were a huge number of women who just continued to be my friends, go to dinner, go to movies, dress up in ridiculous Fourth of July outfits and take photos even though I had on a scarf and had minimal eyebrows. We talked about kids and jobs, broken plumbing, new restaurants, books, and vacations, just like we always had. Those people kept me focused on who I was as a whole person, on my “real” life, on the self I was pre-cancer–on the self I knew still existed.

I’m not good at having people do stuff for me, but experiencing these kinds of support was one of the major things that kept me going during those overwhelming months. I’m so grateful to my friends for keeping my head above water when it felt like I might drown.

85% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. As demonstrated by Alicia’s experience it is critical to demonstrate breast awareness, if it doesn’t feel right, have it checked out. Make sure you know what is normal for you throughout your cycle and when it’s not normal.  Oh, and screening mammograms start at 40 years old, and every year after. TMC for Women’s Breast Center offers comfortable, swift and experienced breast screening mammograms. For more information visit our website. 

Of Trampolines and Chickens…

…a story of friendship.

Once, long long ago–well, in the earlier part of the new millenium–I was going through a painful, protracted breakup. One of those stop-start kinds, with lots of reunions and tears and separations and did I mention pain?

It was physical pain, and hurt as much as anything else I’d endured.

Two friends in particular got me through this prolonged and arduous process, and today I will tell you about one of them.

Here is the story of something Alicia did for me, something that meant more to me than she probably could have imagined.

It was before the final-final breakup, and in fact he and I weren’t even broken up, but he was gone, as he often was, in a remote part of the world, inaccessible even by cell phone (not that he had one anyway). When he left, things weren’t looking good, so I was in the middle of a month of dead air, a month in which to wonder which way things would go upon his return.

I was, in short, utterly and completely anxious, nearly all the time. I could barely sleep or eat, and the only thing that I seemed capable of was walking. So I walked, and walked, and walked.

Usually I’d walk to Alicia’s house, where I inserted myself into her family’s life. They had an adorable toddler son, and through the years they had accepted me as an honorary relative. I spent Thanksgivings and Christmases with them (the boyfriend always spent Thanksgiving with his family and I was never invited), and most weekends I’d walk from my duplex west of the University to their bungalow, north of the University. It was a long enough walk to calm me down a bit, and in any case, being in their midst felt way better than being alone with my obsessive thoughts.

One day, Alicia told me she had a surprise, and that it involved a walk across Campbell. I had no idea what to expect. We walked to her husband’s friend’s house, a place I’d been only once before, and there in the backyard awaited two known sources of pure joy for me: a trampoline, and some baby chicks.

trampolineAlicia knew me long and well enough, and cared enough about me, to know that simple visceral pleasures were usually the only remedy for my anxiety. I already had a therapist, and was working on my “issues”. But when I was anxious, stuck in a loop, things like stroking my dog’s ears or going on one of my long walks were the best solutions. And jumping–oh I how I love to jump! And chickens! Alicia knew I had a thing for them.

So she’d arranged this special treat for me, a backyard with jumping, and chickens, just her and me, no itinerary. So I jumped for a long time.

And finally I got off and stood in the early winter sun with a chick perched on my shoulder while Alicia took her turn on the trampoline.

We didn’t talk much. I jumped some more, and after a long while, we left. And inside me there was a growing seed of strength and hope, one I hadn’t felt before: I knew that, no matter what happened with the boyfriend, I’d be okay. If I could feel joy on this afternoon, without him, it meant anything was possible. No matter which way things went, I could hang onto this feeling of hope whose source was wholly within my being, and I believed that in the end, it would all be okay.

trampolinechickThank you, Alicia, my friend, for reminding me how to be alive, for providing respite from suffering, and for giving me the hope I very much needed.

Have you ever had a friend do just the right thing exactly when you most needed it? Do your friendships sustain and inspire you? How do you know when you have “enough” friends to maintain a balanced life? Read more about why friendships matter, and how to build and maintain a strong and healthful social network.

Friendships with Benefits

Author Julie, keeps a regular date with a girlfriend. Time to catch up and check in.

Author Julie, keeps a regular date with a girlfriend. Time to catch up and check in.

Nothing can turn a bad day around like having a chat with a good friend. Whether she offers sage advice, provides a balanced perspective, or just cracks me up, within a few minutes the world seems a better place.

It turns out that not only do I feel better as a result of my friendships, but I’m actually healthier because of them!

People with a strong social network live longer and healthier lives. Recent studies show that friendships provide benefits ranging from increased immunity, lower risk of cardiovascular problems, fewer and less debilitating incidents of depression, and better cancer survival rates.

Having connections with many family members, incidentally, doesn’t seem to provide the same health benefits. And interactions between “frenemies”, or those with whom we have conflicted relationships, actually raise blood pressure and presumably are detrimental to our overall health.

Why is this? One theory is that friendships ease our burden, lighten our load, and therefore decrease stress, meaning they lower levels of cortisol. High cortisol is associated with increased blood pressure and accumulation of abdominal fat, the type associated with higher risk of heart disease.

Another way in which our pals make us healthier is they support our efforts to make lifestyle changes. If you’re trying to stop smoking, you’re likely to have a built-in cheerleading team, and a chorus of voices ready to remind you just how awful cigarettes are. Tell your BFF that you’re trying to eat better and you just might get a raised eyebrow when you reach for that plate of potato skins. You can even come up with a code word or phrase if you want to be reminded to make healthy choices. Don’t worry—no one will notice if every time you head toward the candy bowl your officemate says “Are the Wildcats playing tonight?”

Coming up, we’ll feature several real-life accounts of friendships that have made people healthier, and, presumably, happier.

Keeping the holidays in perspective

We’re not waiting for January 1 to give the gift of health, we’re starting now. This is the third in the series sharing tips and ideas that you can incorporate this season, to give the best gift – a healthy you.

When we discuss health we recognize our both physical and emotional health. While the tendency is to dismiss stress as a factor in our health,  and being told to “Just relax” typically has the reverse effect, stress has a very real impact on our physical as well as emotional health. In this post Julie shares her perspective on keeping the holidays in perspective.

No matter what your spiritual beliefs, this time of year is typically a time of celebration. Nearly a month ago we gave thanks for the gifts in our lives, and before that some of us lit clay lamps for Diwali. Just last week some of  our houses were aglow with candles eight nights in a row. Soon others of us will celebrate Kwanzaa or Christmas, or both, or neither.

Winter celebrations are about quality time with people you love, not about staying up all night to buy electronics at a big box store (though if that’s what floats your boat, who are we to judge you?) Creating genuinely enjoyable celebrations that reflect your values and feel right to you is a wonderful way to make the holidays matter, to solidify your connections with family, friends, and community.

Rachel, the resident TMC for Women blogger,  has a family tradition of having friends over for a dinner of potato leek soup and chili, and then going for a group bike ride through Winterhaven. Living in Tucson, some families enjoy a hike up Tumamoc Hill on what will likely be a sunny Christmas day, when, regardless of your spiritual beliefs, you probably won’t be working and your kids certainly won’t be in school. How wonderful to have a holiday celebration that’s meaningful, fun, and even healthy!

Other families and friends spend time doing charitable work, focusing on service and giving, rather than (or in addition to) buying and receiving material goods. Reminding ourselves of all we have to be grateful for, especially right now, when a community across the country is grieving for the loss of schoolchildren and teachers, is a way to keep things in perspective and focus on what really matters.

My husband and I like to have a picnic in the desert on New Year’s Day and talk about all that’s happened over the last year—a bit of reflection before turning our thoughts toward the year ahead. Does your family, or group of friends, have any traditions that are unique or especially meaningful?

The Gift of Health- 5 Tips for the Holiday Party

5 Tips for Maintaing not Gaining at the Holiday Party

5 Tips for Maintaing not Gaining at the Holiday Party

We’re not waiting for January 1 to give the gift of health, we’re starting now.Give the best gift – a healthy you. Julie Reed talks frankly about all those tips and the reality of putting them into action.

You’ve read the tips on how to avoid weight gain over the holidays: Eat crudité instead of artichoke dip! Opt for a glass of seltzer with lime instead of an alcoholic beverage! Hold your purse in one hand and that seltzer in another so you can’t eat!

Well, I happen to really like crudité and seltzer, but I also like some good artichoke dip and a glass of wine, and I can’t quite consider these things the same. If you want to eat a slice of smoked Gouda and have some Pinot Noir, you’re not likely to be thrilled with bubbly water and a baby carrot.

So enjoy the things you really like–don’t deprive yourself. But be mindful about your choices. For instance, don’t eat things that aren’t special, or that you don’t really love. That Costco cheese tray is going to appear in your life sometime over the next few months, I promise. Same with the store-bought cookies and the three-buck-Chuck. Focus on the real treats–a wedge of very special French cheese brought by a fromage afficionado; a glass of Bordeaux offered by a host knowledgeable about wines; the pecan-pie-cookies that your friend makes only once a year.

And remember that the third (cookie, glass of wine, homemade tamale) tastes no better than the first, so use some restraint. The other day at an open house, I found myself sitting in front of the most amazing homemade dip, and eventually changed seats because I couldn’t stop eating it–such creamy goodness. It’s especially hard to moderate food intake after a couple glasses of wine. So limiting alcohol intake is important not only because of the health risks of heavier drinking, but because decision making skills plummet. And of course if you’re the designated driver, you want to make sure to limit your alcoholic beverages and drink lots of water and eat enough healthful food so that you are sober by the end of the evening.

If you know you just can’t stop eating the candy cane Joe Joe’s (Trader Joe’s version of an Oreo), well, don’t buy them. (I have that issue with their maple sandwich cookies–just too good to keep around the house!) One friend has a helpful trick to keep herself on track at parties: She keeps three blue paper clip and three silver paper clips in her pocket. Each time she has a drink, she puts a blue clip in her purse. Each time she has a “splurge” food (high fat appetizer, or a dessert) she puts a silver paper clip in her purse. When the clips are gone, she knows she’s had enough. It’s her own little accounting system, which works well for people who have good intentions but tend to lose track of their eating and drinking in social situation.

Two tips I often read in women’s magazines actually make good sense–if you know you’re going to a party, eat extra healthfully for the day’s other meals and get some exercise. The other is to wear a fitted outfit so that you’re conscious of your body, and therefore less likely to overeat.

So enjoy yourself mindfully and without any guilt, and happy holidays!!

Four women share their stories of gestational diabetes (or “No pancakes for you, my dear!”)

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and we’re raising awareness not only about Type 2 diabetes, but also prediabetes, gestational diabetes and the autoimmune disease-Type 1 diabetes.

I recently chatted with a few women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes midway through a pregnancy. Women are typically screened for GD somewhere around the 25th week of pregnancy. This involves drinking a very sugary beverage, waiting a bit, then having blood drawn. This provides a way to assess how well one’s body is able to regulate blood sugar levels. While the procedure isn’t painful, it sure can be unpleasant! That sugary drink is not particularly pleasant for many women. (I didn’t mind it terribly, but people with nausea that persists past the first trimester often dread the glucose screening as it makes nausea worse, and downing the syrupy Tang-like drink can be a challenge.

What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes (sometimes shortened to GD) occurs when a woman’s blood sugar rises abnormally and dangerously high during pregnancy. The pancreas produces insulin which keeps blood sugar in a normal range, but during pregnancy, hormones produced by the placenta can in some cases render insulin less than effective, leading to GD.

GD can be managed through dietary changes in some cases (avoiding high-glycemic foods, like sugar and simple carbs and eating lots of protein), but some women have to take oral medication or give themselves  insulin injections to maintain a stable glucose level. Women with GD have to monitor their blood sugar regularly at home. Risks of having gestational diabetes include having a larger than normal baby, leading possibly to a C-section, and having a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes later on.

If a woman “fails” the initial GD glucose tolerance screening(ie if her blood sugar is too high), she will then have a second test measuring glucose levels over several hours to see how and when the levels change. The results of this second test determine if she is diagnosed with GD or not.

Many women “fail” the initial screening but “pass” the second, and are not considered to have GD. This has happened to quite a few of my friends, and it was a relief to know that they didn’t have to make any major changes for the remainder of the pregnancy. But for others, like Sara, the second test confirmed the results of the initial screening and she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I know Sara through an online community of women who had experienced infertility and miscarriage, and for her, this diagnosis made her feel “like I was ‘broken’ in yet another way”. She finally had a pregnancy that was lasting, and now there was yet another bump in the road. Sara was surprised by the diagnosis because she had no family history of diabetes, and is a very slim woman.

“I was told that I had a risk of having a large baby, which was laughable”, says the very petite project manager, then 38 years old.

“The worst part about the diagnosis was that I developed an enormous craving for pancakes soon after, and the fact that I couldn’t eat them was so hard! I made my husband promise me pancakes as my first postpartum meal (there’s a cafe across the street from the hospital that’s open 24 hours a day). I still remember that first bite of syrup-soaked delicousness!”

The best way Sara managed her GD was to eat lots of protein, a tip she got from a co-worker who has type 1 diabetes.
Sara’s case was mild enough that she discovered that if she ate enough protein, she could eat almost anything in moderation. For example, she added almond butter to her beloved smoothies. The only thing that made her blood sugar skyrocket no matter what was pasta, so she avoided it completely.

In the end, Sara delivered a very healthy 6 pound 6 ounce baby girl at 38 weeks. In her next pregnancy, she did not develop gestational diabetes and now has two healthy little girls, ages 3 and 6.

Gestational diabetes. Leah experienced gestational diabetes with her second son's pregnancy, but not the first or third. She was able to manage GD with strict diet.

Leah & babies 2 & 3. Photo courtesy of Love Letters to Tucson

Leah Noreng has 3 sons and when pregnant with her second, at age 32, she was diagnosed with GD. She was in disbelief at the diagnosis, because she didn’t have it during her first pregnancy and, like Sara, had no risk factors. But she finally accepted that she had to make some changes, and said goodbye to her beloved ice cream. She too managed her GD through diet, and says she never felt hungry–she ate carefully planned meals and snacks on a strict schedule. She kept her glucose levels in check rather easily and delivered a 7 pound, six ounce baby at 37 weeks–vaginally and unmedicated. “He was the smallest of my three”, she chuckles. Like Sara, her next pregnancy did not result in a GD diagnosis.

Rebecca had a fairly normal pregnancy with her daughter, S, but “massively failed” the GD test when pregnant with her son O.  Her docs first had her try oral medication, but she was swiftly switched to insulin injections, self-administered four times a day. O was born at a normal weight but with immature lungs which may or may not have been related to her GD. Rebecca checks her blood sugar annually, and it’s now back to pre-diabetic levels. She did have a GD risk factor of being overweight, and says that “now I have to get really serious about diet and weight loss”, as her GD history, in addition to being overweight, increases her risk of getting type 1 diabetes, as mentioned above.

Cassandra, a freelance musician and teaching artist,  had two risk factors for gestational diabetes. Her paternal grandfather was diabetic, and she is overweight. Unlike the three women above, Cassandra had GD with both pregnancies, but was able to manage her glucose levels entirely through diet. While she found the diagnosis frightening, and the process of establishing a healthful diet arduous and at times frustrating, once she got the hang of it, she found both the diet and the blood sugar monitoring fairly simple. The doctors’ appointments proved stressful during her second pregnancy, since she had a toddler to care for, and she already felt confident in her ability to manage her glucose levels. Her first birth was induced because she went past her due date, and the healthy baby weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces. Her second delivery was free of interventions, and the 8 pound, 4 ounce infant was perfect.

Gestational diabetes complicates pregnancy and can seriously compromise the health of both mother and infant. In the situations above each woman took the test, no matter whether she had risk factors for GD, and with the help of medical advice, was able to manage their gestational diabetes. Four different stories, but having caught  happy endings all around. Thank you for sharing, Sara, Leah, Rebecca, and Cassandra!

Diagnosing and managing prediabetes

Kay Reed is a tall, lean, fit-looking woman who just turned seventy. She’s an avid hiker and has enough energy to keep up with her four grandchildren, two of whom live in Tucson.  She loves her grandkids more than anything, and the feeling is mutual. Grandma Kay plans to be around for a long time and watch them grow up.

She appears to be the picture of clean living and excellent health, which is, for the most part, true. What you can’t tell by looking at Kay is that she is prediabetic. How did Kay find out? And what does this mean for her?

For starters, there’s family history to consider.

Kay’s paternal grandfather had adult onset diabetes, also known as type-two diabetes. He developed type-two diabetes before the era of insulin replacement. which probably contributed to an earlier-than-expected death. A person with type-two diabetes has a pancreas that produces little or no insulin, leading to dangerously high blood-sugar levels.

This type of diabetes differs from type-one diabetes, which typically starts in youth, which is why it used to be known as “juvenile diabetes”.  In type-one diabetes, the pancreas makes no insulin, and blood sugar must be monitored daily, and regular injections of insulin are required to maintain a healthy blood level.

Kay’s father had adult onset diabetes as well, but he was able to keep his blood sugar in check through the use of various medications, and did not need to take insulin. He lived to be 90, but his cause of death was likely partially related to complications from diabetes.

Because of her family history, Kay thought it was smart to check some bloodwork done to see if she too was prediabetic. So she requested an A1C test to check her glycohemoglobin. This is different than a regular blood sugar test in that it shows a person’s blood sugar levels over a period of several months, rather than simply what one’s current glucose level is. As blood sugar levels can vary throughout time, even in a matter of hour, this test gives a much clearer picture of a person’s glucose levels.

Sure enough, the test results showed a sustained increase in glucose levels over an extended period, and Kay is now clinically prediabetic. She will continue to get regular glycohemoglobin tests to track her blood sugar, and to see if her lifestyle changes are helping her stay as healthy as possible.

So what changes has this already healthy woman made? She already ate little junk food, and mainly consumed whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and some fish. Now, she avoids white flour, refined sugar, animal fat, and tries to get more exercise. “I’ve always tried to eat healthfully, but this has made me even more conscious about my diet. I’m a bit stricter with myself. Also, I know that a daily walk will really help me keep my blood sugar under control.”

“Interestingly, I don’t crave sweets as much as I used to, but I do love a little piece of dark chocolate every day.”