Don't Just Become a Grandparent, Stay a Grandparent: Dealing with Type 2 Diabetes Early Saves Time for Playing with Grandkids Later

Nov 04, 2013, 12:00 ET from Kaiser Permanente

OAKLAND, Calif., Nov. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Grandparents know there's nothing quite like hearing the news of a first grandchild.


But for millions of Americans, becoming a grandparent at all hinges on making healthy decisions about dealing with chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Such was the case for 62-year-old Terry McMaster, who scheduled a long-avoided check-up with his Kaiser Permanente physician after learning he was about to become a grandfather.

Terry didn't expect anything to be wrong, but a series of tests during a physical exam with Debra Friesen, MD, at Wheat Ridge Medical Offices in Colorado led to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Before his doctor's appointment, Terry was one of the estimated 7 million Americans living with undiagnosed diabetes. It can be easy for men and women to ignore a diabetes diagnosis when the symptoms are either too mild to notice or non-existent. But the cost of ignoring diabetes can be deadly.

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body loses its ability to control blood sugar. This is most often a result of living an unhealthy and inactive lifestyle. According to Jennifer Loh, MD, an endocrinologist with Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, when diabetes is left untreated for a long period of time, sugar can deposit anywhere the blood flows — meaning everywhere. "For example, if it deposits in your heart, it increases your risks of heart attacks," she said. "Or if it deposits in the blood vessels in your brain, you could be at risk of having a stroke."

Like many Americans, Terry was unaware of just how dangerous a diabetes diagnosis can be. "I didn't think it was a big deal," Terry said. "After Dr. Friesen told me, I kind of just blew it off."

Dr. Friesen recognized Terry's apathy. She sat down with him to explain what diabetes means for those who don't make healthy changes to manage their diagnosis. "Heart disease, strokes, blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy," Dr. Friesen listed the health risks.

At the end of their conversation, Terry signed up for Kaiser Permanente's education classes for members dealing with diabetes. His attitude changed dramatically.

"I heard some of the horror stories about some of the other people losing toes and losing limbs," he remembered. "I got scared and decided I would get a little more serious about it."

There is good news for diabetes patients. When caught early, simple lifestyle changes can help manage a diabetes diagnosis before it progresses. "Just healthy eating, regular exercise and monitoring your blood sugar — many people can simply be in control with that," said Dr. Loh. "Other people have to do those same things and take medications or insulin."

Terry learned that in order to manage his diabetes, he would have to change his lifestyle and take medication twice a day. Not wanting to manage his health through medicine, Terry worked with Dr. Friesen to develop a plan that would allow him to manage his diabetes without medication.

On his new plan, Terry stopped eating junk food, started walking regularly and focused on losing weight. One year later, he was able to stop taking medication and control his diabetes diagnosis entirely through living a healthy lifestyle.

Now a proud grandfather of two grandchildren, Terry hopes everyone with a diabetes diagnosis will take it seriously.

"I feel a lot healthier than I've felt in the past 15 years," he said. "I want to be around to watch those grandkids grow up."

To watch Terry's story and learn more about diabetes treatment, visit the Kaiser Permanente Care Stories blog at

Launched in July 2011, Care Stories is a collection of first-person video narratives from Kaiser Permanente members talking about their own care in their own words, unscripted and uncompensated. 

About Kaiser Permanente
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SOURCE Kaiser Permanente