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Wear The Gown: Rolling back diabetes with diet and exercise

It is possible to get off medication with lifestyle changes.

SAN ANTONIO — For many who develop type-2 diabetes, they become reliant on medication—and, in many cases, more than one type. But it is possible to roll back diabetes and get off the medications with diet and exercise.

"It was eight-point-something and now we are down to 5.7, which is borderline diabetic. Anything under six is where I want to stay," said Armida Oliver, a diabetes patient for the past 10 years, while discussing her A1C number. "That was about two or three years ago. I'm down to just one medication and my numbers have been great."

At one point she was taking three medications: Metformin, Januvia, and Invokana. But thanks to diet and exercise, she managed to drop two of them, along with 55 pounds. 

"I join my sisters for senior water aerobics every morning. We try Monday through Friday, but we are happy if we go four times a week," Oliver said. 

Some of the benefits of exercise for diabetes includes lowered blood sugar levels, improved insulin sensitivity, reduced body fat, a lowered risk of heart disease and an enhanced quality of life. 

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"Miss Oliver is really a model patient. She's the perfect example of someone who, through lifestyle modifications, has been able to not only get her diabetes under control, but really throwing the diabetes into what we call remission," said Dr. Alberto Chavez, an endocrinologist with the Texas Diabetes Institute within the University Health System. 

He added there has been some debate about what diabetes remission really means. 

"The bottom line is that it is a reality that patients can get off of medications or many amounts of medications by making meaningful lifestyle changes," Chavez said. 

That is exactly what Oliver did in cutting her medications from three to one.

"I take it faithfully and I know that I can't have two donuts in one sitting," she said. "I'm not depriving myself, but, by the same token, I just limit myself."

For more information about family health, call (210)358-3045. You can also find the rest of Wear The Gown stories, just go to WearTheGown.com.

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