Small Steps in a Good DirectionSmall Steps in a Good Direction

Lessons on living healthier from type 2 diabetes patients

A new year typically inspires people to eat better and exercise more.

But if you want some serious inspiration, something beyond the turn of a page on the calendar, we have a suggestion: Look to people facing a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. 

The news on the type 2 diabetes front isn't encouraging: Incidence rates in every state have increased, jumping from 4.5 percent to 8.2 percent from 1995 to 2010. And for anyone facing the disease, the lifelong changes it necessitates may be overwhelming.

"It's such an intricate disease," says Sarah Haveman, R.D., certified diabetes educator at the Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center at Mary Greeley Medical Center. "It impacts so much—nerves, teeth, eyes, heart. We lose sight of the impact, and sometimes, if we are reading about a reason for a death and back it up a few steps, we might see uncontrolled blood sugar as a cause."

Type 2 diabetes—different than the type 1 version of the disease—is a disease connected to high amounts of sugar in our blood. "Consider that blood is typically waterlike, and it easily flows throughout the entire body," says Haveman. "So think about a higher sugar substance: It is
sticky goo. If your blood glucose levels aren't properly managed then the blood is stickier and the flow can be gooed up."

The Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center assesses each patient individually: What incremental changes is he comfortable with? What are her limits? What can educators do to help him succeed? Is it diet or exercise that needs to change, or a little of both?

"Every person is different," Haveman says. "We try to find out what they are capable of and what they are ready to change, and we focus on that first. Some people are going to be more fired up about exercise but not willing to get rid of certain foods. For those people it is educating them and sometimes fitting in those favorite foods is the most reasonable direction to go."

But change isn't really the biggest hurdle to conquer. "The big barrier to making some changes is admitting the diagnosis," Haveman says. "It is something that is absolutely manageable, but they have to be willing to take a look at themselves and make lifestyle changes to help manage their blood sugar. We have fantastic tools, so let us help you find what one is great for you. You don’t have to go on your own."

These two Mary Greeley Medical Center patients are taking steps to combat the disease, and seeing wonderful results.

Deb Davenport

Deb Davenport:
60 pounds lighter, and a whole
lot happier.

Read Deb's story.

Mary Sue Duffy

Mary Sue Duffy:
A walk away from the
cookie jar.

Read Mary Sue's story.