Initially, Carole West paid little attention to her disease. In 1988, when she was diagnosed, there were fewer treatment options for Type 2 diabetes, and the disorder commanded less national attention.
Ten years later, with her blood sugar levels still poorly controlled, her doctor put her on a maximum drug regimen of metformin, Actos and Prandin for diabetes, as well as Lipitor for cholesterol and Toprol and Altace for high blood pressure. Still, she has the beginning stages of diabetic retinopathy and suffers kidney problems.
West, now 70, has struggled with her weight for years and admits that dieting is a challenge for her. "I like to eat," she says. "I like things that are sweet. I'm very compulsive about everything else — I never miss medications or doctor's appointments — except my eating."
Two years ago, she began taking another diabetes drug called Byetta that also decreases appetite. Her weight dropped from 180 to 153 pounds, but she also experienced a horrible bout of dehydration that sent her to the hospital. The changes made her family and doctors fear she might have cancer, but the dehydration resolved after she stopped taking Byetta. Still, the scare prompted her to snap to attention about her condition, says the retired psychotherapist who lives in the Inland Empire.
Encouraged by her doctor, West took up walking around her neighborhood for one or two hours every day. Sometimes she goes with her family; otherwise, she listens to music history classes on a portable CD player. She tests her blood sugar daily, and it's under control with much less medication. Her kidney and eye issues are stable.
West almost certainly benefited from the development of new and better Type 2 diabetes medications, but her doctor says West's condition wouldn't have improved so much without better lifestyle changes too.