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Dominating Diabetes

People Who Are Finding the Way

By David Mendosa

Last Update: March 14, 2002

Teri Robert is lucky that her doctor diagnosed her diabetes about three years ago. Most people have it for eight to ten years before they discover it. Her doctor detected it almost immediately.

Teri Robert Because of that, her Hemoglobin A1c was no more than 7.2 when she was diagnosed. Since then she has brought it down to 5.6 to 6.0.

"As soon as my doctor found out that my father had type 2 diabetes and died at age 59 of complications, he ordered an A1c," Teri says. "My uncle and grandmother also had diabetes. My doctor kept ordering the tests every three months. He said that I was at too high a risk for him not to monitor me very closely. They stayed in the normal range for the first two years that I saw him. And then all of a sudden I had a 7.2."

A Web designer and medical journalist, Teri is 47 and lives in Washington, West Virginia, with her husband. While she knows that she needs to lose weight, her doctor told her that it is healthier for her to control her glucose levels than to concentrate on weight loss.

"My doctor's philosophy is that if I eat what I need but not overeat, keep my glucose levels in line, eat a balanced diet, and keep exercising, then slowly but surely my body will get to the weight it should be," Teri says. Two years later I am still about 100 pounds overweight. I have lost only 30 pounds, but I lost that 30 pounds very gradually and it probably will not come back."

Teri's diabetic educator recommended the Exchanges Lists of the American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association for planning her meals. She uses it, but she modifies the list based on her testing experience.

"Grapes send my levels sky high," she says. "I have eliminated those foods, and I have also make a list of foods and prioritized them."

Her blood tests are the key to her success. At first it seemed like she was testing all the time. But as she learned how her body reacted to different foods she has been able to cut back. Now she tests twice a day—once before breakfast and the other time two hours after breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

"Unless I am feeling funny," she adds. "If I am feeling funny, then I'll test." Then she is likely to find her blood glucose level to be too low, often as low as 65 or even lower.

She also tests her fructosamine level every week. "That one test every weekend lets me know if something is slipping by those other tests," she says.

For exercise she uses a treadmill in her office. "Regardless of the weather or the allergens outside I have no excuse not to exercise. I love Broadway musicals, so I listen to Richard Simmons tapes. I do this at least three times a week, but some days I'll get on the treadmill two to three times."

This program lets her totally control her diabetes without using any medications. Of all adult Americans with diagnosed diabetes that the government surveyed in 1989 only 18 percent did not use either insulin shots or pills. Teri is one lucky woman. 

I wrote this article for the old "DiabetesWatch" website.

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