Food & Fitness After 50: Running Away from Diabetes

“What are you taking for your diabetes?” was the question Bill was asked when he had a physical exam for his employer’s insurance. He almost fell out of his chair and replied that he didn’t have diabetes, but the blood test showed otherwise. After a momentary “freak out,” his doctor said he could try changing his diet and start exercising but if that didn’t lower his blood sugar level than medication was on the horizon.

Bill Pratt 1Bill, now age 60, had that wake-up call 4 years ago. Today his blood sugar is normal, and diet and exercise did the trick. But, he had a lifetime of poor eating and sedentary behaviors to overcome.

Bill has always struggled with his weight; as a kid his not-so-nice nickname was “Fat Albert.” As an adult, his weight reached a high of 220 pounds and on his 5’10” frame, that equated to a body mass index (BMI) of 30.1, putting him in the obese category. (To learn if your BMI is in a healthy range, plug your height and weight into this online calculator).

After his diagnosis of diabetes, Bill started running 2 miles every day. Exercise is one of the pillars of diabetes management, with diet being the other. But, Bill said he “was afraid to eat so he just stopped.” His wife was concerned he would suffer from of malnutrition, so she called upon a neighbor, a former registered dietitian. (She was profiled in an early blog post; to read about her, click here.)

Bill said that today he is reminded to practice good health by thinking of the quote, attributed to baseball player, Mickey Mantle; “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

His strategies for aging well include exercise. “Running is not only good to manage my blood sugar, it is a great stress reliever and my ‘epiphany’ time. I get my best ideas when my mind is free while running.” He has also come to appreciate the value of rest and a good night’s sleep. “I’m a proponent of the 20-minute power nap!” And, he also stays young at heart by learning from his sons, ages 29 and 26, who keep him abreast the latest trends, cool new music and bands, and exposing him to new influences that he would not otherwise get in his circle of friends.

His advice for others is to get and stay on a path to healthy aging by planning. “Planning when I can fit running into my day and what to eat helps me execute my wellness strategy.” This is great advice, too often we think we lack will power but what we really lack is advance planning as a tool to help us with weight loss or managing chronic diseases. This is summed up nicely in a tweet by registered dietitian, Jill Weisenberger:

Jills quote

Bill reminds us to take a hard look in the mirror and ask, “Am I living a sustainable lifestyle?” Bill’s answer four years ago was “no,” but today it is “yes.” He wants to be around for his wife, kids and future grandchildren. “Just be committed; that and have a supportive spouse like I do!”