Gloria hasn't always been an active person. Until she retired a few years ago, she didn't have time, she says. Her job at the local college as an administrative assistant kept her busy. And after work, she just didn't have enough energy—or interest—to do any exercise.
After she retired, there were other things to keep her busy—grandkids, volunteering at the library, and helping her husband, Al, with his tax business. About a year ago while doing some work for Al, Gloria had trouble reading the numbers on the checks she was filing. She cleaned her glasses and put them back on, but it didn't help.
"My eyes were all blurry. It was really scary," Gloria says. "It finally went away, but then it came back. My doctor tested me for diabetes. He said that the blurriness means my blood sugar is too high."
Testing and tracking to stay in range
Gloria started taking pills (metformin) to help lower her blood sugar levels. And she took a diabetes education class where she learned how diet and activity can help her manage her blood sugar.
"I got pretty motivated to take care of myself. I don't want anything to happen to my eyes," she says.
She expected to see results right away, but it took time. It was hard to get her blood sugar in the range that her dietitian asked her to aim for (80 to 130 mg/dL before meals, and less than 180 mg/dL after meals).
Gloria kept trying. She used a food log to keep track of everything she ate. She tested her blood sugar often to find out what kinds of foods made it spike.
"It took me about 6 months to get into the range. And I was doing everything right. So I guess the biggest message is that you have to be patient. If you keep track of your numbers, you will see them slowly going down. That is the direction you want to go!"
Since she started controlling her blood sugar, Gloria hasn't had any eye problems. But she gets an eye exam every year to check for problems she might not notice.
Activity makes a difference
Now Gloria makes activity the top priority of her day. When she first found out she had diabetes, she started walking laps at the mall with friends. These days Gloria climbs on a stationary bike in her den 4 times a day and cycles for 10 minutes. She does it once before each meal and again before she goes to bed.
"Exercise really changed everything for me," she says. "The way I feel, my blood sugar, everything. It really works. I'm 70 years old, and I've never felt better, stronger, healthier, or happier in my whole life."
There are days when Gloria doesn't meet her blood sugar range. She doesn't worry too much about it, but she does keep track when it happens.
"You can't be perfect all the time. Everybody slips up sometimes," she says.
Finding support and swapping recipes
Gloria meets once a week with her support group—women she met in her diabetes education class at the hospital.
"It's not a formal group. We get together for coffee every Wednesday morning and talk about how we're doing, what we're eating. And we swap recipes. It's really fun, and I learn a lot from them."
She loves trying out recipes for healthy eating and is always on the lookout for new ones. One of her favorites is a zucchini-crust pizza.
"It uses zucchini and egg whites for the crust. You add a little cheese, tomato, and spices. I just love that. And it's really low-carb," she says. "I used to eat regular pizza all the time. Now I can still enjoy it by making a few healthy changes."
Staying motivated with a long-term goal
Gloria has a long-term goal—to rely on diet and exercise to lower her blood sugar levels. First, her doctor asked her to take a stress test. She passed it.
"We have a deal. If I keep exercising and my numbers keep going down, he said I may be able to slowly decrease how much metformin I'm taking. I know it might not happen. But it feels good to me to be taking charge of my situation."
This story is based on information gathered from many people living with type 2 diabetes.