Deb Brown: Dancing with the odds

How she overcame prediabetes
December 19, 2018

Deb Brown was diagnosed with prediabetes. Her husband, Milton, has diabetes. She was determined to do something to stop herself from getting diabetes.

With a family history of diabetes, Deb Brown has always been conscious of staying active and eating a healthy diet.

When she and her husband moved to Delaware in 2015, Deb slowed down a bit. She noticed she was spending more time on the couch, and eating sweet treats more often than she ever did when she was working full time for the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Pennsylvania.

“I noticed I was feeling more sluggish, and I felt like I was thirsty all of the time,” Deb says. “My daughter passed away from complications from diabetes, and my husband has diabetes, so I thought that could be what was going on.” Deb’s annual bloodwork showed an elevated A1C - the percentage of red blood cells that are coated with sugar. Deb’s levels fell in the prediabetes range.

“As soon as I got those results, I said to myself, I need to make some changes,” said Deb. She joined a water aerobics class and exercise group, and now exercises four to five times each week. “I’m 73, and I walk regularly. There are many activity groups in my community at Heritage Shores to choose from, so I make an effort to be active every day.”

She also focused on improving her eating habits. “I was always good about eating a healthy diet, but I have a sweet tooth, too,” she says. “I tell people it’s all about being intentional.”

When Deb and Milton were looking for a specialist to help manage Milton’s diabetes and Deb’s prediabetes, they found Karen E. Smith Coleman, MD, FACE, with Beebe Endocrinology – Millsboro, who they have known for many years.

“It shows what a small world it is because Milton used to teach Dr. Smith Coleman when she was in junior high in Baltimore,” said Deb with a chuckle. “Then when we were in Reading, Pa., Dr. Smith Coleman was one of the doctors who also helped care for our daughter. Now, here we are in Delaware, and we are her patients.”

Many people do not even notice any symptoms of prediabetes. This is why it is so important to have annual exams and bloodwork done with a primary care provider. If levels are elevated, then people can make changes and work with an endocrinology specialist, said Smith Coleman.

There are three tests that can help detect prediabetes: an eight-hour fasting glucose test, a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test, or a non-fasting test, an A1C. One needs one abnormal test over two different periods for the diagnosis of prediabetes. The key indicators for prediabetes are a fasting glucose of 100 to 125 mg/dl, or A1C of 5.7 to 6.4 percent.

Having a fasting glucose test and testing A1C levels are the first steps in helping patients like Deb discover they have prediabetes and get started on improving their health. If caught early, patients are able to make lifestyle changes to prevent getting Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that can be prevented by managing and reversing prediabetes with lifestyle changes. Those with prediabetes and diabetes have a higher risk for infections, nerve damage that can cause tingling and pain in the hands and feet, and risk of limb loss due to circulatory problems.

“Patients need to understand that prediabetes and diabetes are serious concerns. They should take action to improve their health because both prediabetes and diabetes can often be prevented or reversed,” said Smith Coleman.

People who are concerned that they may be among the one in three Americans with prediabetes should talk to their physician about being tested. Beebe Endocrinology sees patients in Lewes and Millsboro. For more information or to make an appointment, call 302-648-7999 or go to endocrinology.