Diabetes can strike at any age, and it can remain hidden for years. Fortunately, if it is type 2, eating right and exercise can help delay its onset and the use of medications to treat it, as Robert Mandell discovered.
Mandell, now eighty-five, has had type 2 diabetes for more than forty years. "I have a bad family history of it. My mother and grandmother had it,"29 he says. Like many people, he did not realize his blood sugar was higher than it should be until he went for his annual physical. His doctor said test results showed Man-dell's sugar was high but medication was not necessary yet.
Regular exercise can help people whose blood glucose levels run a little higher than normal bring down their numbers and prevent a diagnosis of diabetes.
Mandell weighed about 215 pounds then, and his doctor encouraged him to start exercising. He began taking frequent walks with a friend, and then the two of them started jogging. He lost about 30 pounds. When he moved to Florida, "My new doctor hounded me to lose more weight, and I got to 175 pounds,"30 he says. For many years, his diabetes remained under control and he took only an oral medication for it.
Finally, when he was around seventy years old, he had to begin injecting insulin. Today, he takes both insulin and oral medication twice daily. The insulin caused him to gain some weight, and he still exercises occasionally by walking and riding a stationary bike, but "not as much as I should," he admits. While he eats pasta occasionally, he eats lots of salads because "I know what I have to do."31 Mandell had heart surgery a few years ago and has arthritis in his hands. "Outside of that, I'm in reasonably good health for my age,"32 he says. His biggest challenge is having to take about twelve pills every morning and night, some for diabetes and some for other conditions.
His best advice for someone newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is "diet and exercise. That's it," he says. "Get into an exercise program and keep your weight down. Most people who have type 2 are on the obese side. If they exercise, usually they can maintain [their health] for many years without insulin."33
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