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Keeping diabetes in check

For those with Type 2 or at risk of it, simple lifestyle choices can mean the difference between a mostly normal life and one filled with serious health complications.

November 01, 2010|By Kendall Powell, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Left to right: Ernesto Acosta (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times); Carole West (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times); Laura Bauden (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times); Nancy Kaneshiro (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times).
Left to right: Ernesto Acosta (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times); Carole West…

Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise. It's a drumbeat most middle-aged and older patients hear from their doctors every year. But for those with Type 2 diabetes, these basic lifestyle factors can play a key role in controlling the disorder and preventing serious complications such as blindness, nerve disorders and kidney failure.

People with Type 2 diabetes aren't able to respond properly to insulin, an essential hormone that helps transfer sugar from the bloodstream to cells, where it is used for energy. When patients become insulin resistant, blood sugar can build up to dangerous levels. The biggest risk factors for the disease are genetic predisposition and being overweight. More than 23 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes, and an additional 57 million are at risk of developing it, according to the American Diabetes Assn.

With consistent blood sugar control and careful attention to cholesterol and blood pressure levels, most Type 2 diabetics can keep the disease in check. Large studies confirm the power of healthy habits. Adopting a low-fat, low-calorie diet and regular exercise to trim 5% to 10% of one's body weight is enough to prevent Type 2 diabetes from developing or to bring diabetics' blood sugar, cholesterol and other key markers within healthy limits.

The four people featured here made dramatic lifestyle changes to battle their diabetes — with varying degrees of success. One paid for coaching through a private clinic, another opted for lap-band surgery, a third relied on a combination of medications and exercise, while a fourth employed sheer willpower. Read on to see how they fared.

Nancy Kaneshiro tried weight loss and exercise, then lap-band surgery

Ernesto Acosta started an exercise and medication regimen

Carole West takes medication and exercises

Laura Bauden went to a weight-loss clinic

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