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Diabetes program helps man accept and embrace lifestyle changes

July 1, 2024 8:55 a.m.

  • Steve McComas, SBL Diabetes Program

For most of his life, Steve McComas indulged his sweet tooth with candies, ice cream and other sugary treats. An active job kept the ill effects at bay, but that changed with his retirement.

The 71-year-old Charleston resident was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes last year and came to learn through the SBL Living with Diabetes program how much he would have to change his eating habits.

The diagnosis came when Steve visited Family Medicine Physician Erica Perrino, MD, for a new patient exam. Blood was drawn to establish various baseline levels, and a few days later Dr. Perrino told Steve that he was diabetic. 

A week prior, Steve had experienced a symptom that he did not know was related: an adverse reaction to alcohol. “I took the first sip of the drink and the whole room started spinning,” he said. “I’ve never drunk much alcohol anyway, but that reaction after one sip was unusual.”

The A1C diabetes screening test run by Dr. Perrino measured 6.5, putting Steve in the diabetic range. Previously he had been screened by other physicians and measured 6.4, a pre-diabetes level. Steve had not known one-tenth of a difference between two numbers could have such a big impact on his life. “I could always eat any type of food and never have any problems, so I was in denial at first,” Steve explained. “After talking with Dr. Perrino and thinking about the reaction to the alcohol, it made more sense.”

Dr. Perrino referred Steve to the SBL Living with Diabetes program. The program, which incorporates education and exercise, gave him the tools he needed to adjust to a new lifestyle to keep his blood sugar level in a safe range.

Over the course of a few months, Certified Diabetic Educators Paula Enstrom, RN, and Cindy Foster, CDCES, RDN, walked Steve through the lifestyle changes he needed to make. He cut back on the chocolates and ice cream he enjoyed; he learned which foods to eat to keep his blood sugar balanced; and he learned how much he needed to exercise, among other things. “The knowledge that Paula and Cindy shared with me is invaluable,” Steve said.

Steve now tracks his nutrient intake, such as how many carbohydrates are in certain foods, and how much starch, dairy and protein he eats. The program also educates people on how much and what kind of exercise they need. Steve either walks or rides a stationary bicycle for 25 minutes five days a week. He also measures his blood sugar once a day to make sure it is within a safe range.

Since graduating from Living with Diabetes in February, Steve has adjusted well to the lifestyle changes he has made, and he says he feels great. He has taken control of his diet to prevent his blood sugar from spiking or dropping. “I can’t say enough good things about the staff and the program for how they helped me,” Steve said. “They helped me accept these lifestyle changes and adhere to them.”


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