Life changes could alter unhealthy diagnosis

October 10, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

Editor's Note: The Herald-Mail will check back with David Smith to see how he is doing with his goals in stemming diabetes. Look for more in the weekly Health section.

When David Smith's blood-sugar levels hit the diabetic mark, he didn't need his doctor to tell him twice: It's time to get moving.

About six months ago Smith, 72, who lives east of Hagerstown, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Although his blood glucose levels were high, he hoped that with some lifestyle changes, he could get his condition under control.


Smith was an active person all of his life, skiing, playing tennis, jogging and riding his bike, he says. But over the past 10 years Smith admits he's reduced his activity level and extra pounds added up quickly.

His sweet tooth didn't help matters. Smith is a sucker for donuts, ice cream and candy.

Since May, the retired doctor of molecular biology has been trying to alter his lifestyle, making changes that will help him drop extra weight and hopefully improve his blood-sugar readings.

"I'm not finished," Smith says with a laugh. "There's a lot of things I'd like to do." Not least of which is enjoying his grandchildren.

On May 8, Smith weighed 251 pounds. "That's way more than I used to weigh," he says. By Sept. 26, he had lost 16 pounds. As of Oct. 6, Smith had lost an additional 3 pounds, bringing his new weight to 232 pounds.

Now, Smith is participating in a Washington County Health Department program called S.T.O.P. (Strategies To Overcome Prediabetes). The program will last until Feb. 6, by which time Smith hopes to have lost 10 to 15 more pounds.

Smith says simple lifestyle changes are helping him lose weight and burn more calories.

"I basically don't buy donuts. I don't have ice cream before I go to bed. It's not anything magic," he says. Smith has always enjoyed playing golf and makes sure that he is able to play as often as possible - with one major change to his game: "I always walk on the golf course now instead of riding in a cart."

He also decided to do some home improvement projects about the same time he set his weight-loss goal. The Smith basement now includes a gym complete with a treadmill, stationary bike and a strength-training machine.

Instead of going to an athletic center, Smith says he prefers having a place close by to work out. "Now that it's in my basement, it's easy for me," he says. "If I'm going to watch TV for any length of time, I'll go down there and work out. It's a pleasant place."

Finding an exercise routine that is enjoyable is critical when trying to change habits, says Lisa McCoy, leader of the S.T.O.P. group and a registered dietitian with the Washington County Health Department.

"The big key is finding what you like," she told her group of 10 at a recent S.T.O.P. weekly meeting. "You're not going to do it unless you really enjoy it."

In addition to setting exercise goals, S.T.O.P. members are encouraged to take their diet seriously, looking at what they eat that causes problems with their blood sugar and how it affects their weight.

McCoy also invites Dr. Stephen Lippman, an endocrinologist, to explain what happens inside the human body when someone has diabetes.

Staying motivated and focused are perhaps the most difficult components of lifestyle change, McCoy says. The S.T.O.P. program addresses motivation in most sessions, going over trouble spots that might make someone fall away from their new routine.

"People have to make changes in their environment and their daily lives in order to achieve their goals," McCoy says. For example, difficulty handling stress and dealing with work environments where snacks and treats are readily available are two things that often cause people to run into diet troubles.

Smith draws his motivation from the changes he is already seeing in his health.

"I'm beginning to feel like I'm more conditioned. Like I'm getting back in shape," he says. His blood-sugar levels also have fallen to the prediabetes level.

"I'm not giving up," he says.

For more information about the S.T.O.P. program, call Lisa McCoy at 240-313-3300.

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