Navistar employee dodges diabetes through improved fitness, diet
By Lara Krupicka For The Sun November 19, 2012 3:06PM
Lara Elgin of Minooka works out regularly. After being diagnosed as pre-diabetic, she changed her diet and started exercising more and her health has impoved. | SUBMITTED
Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and/or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
Older than 45
Family history of diabetes
Low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure
Certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska natives)
Women who had gestational diabetes
Women who have given birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
Source: American Diabetes
Updated: December 22, 2012 6:13AM
Diabetes is a preventable disease. Just ask Lara Elgin.
While shopping one day a year ago, the 44-year-old Navistar employee from Minooka broke into a sweat and began shaking. On instinct she ate a candy bar and immediately the symptoms went away.
“I’m like, this isn’t right,” Elgin says. “This is not supposed to be happening.”
A visit to her doctor confirmed her suspicions: her blood sugars were elevated, along with her blood pressure. Her weight put her in the category of morbidly obese. She was pre-diabetic.
University of Chicago statistics show more than 800,000 Illinoisians as diagnosed diabetics, with another 500,000 living with the disease, unaware. And according to the American Diabetes Association, 57 million people in the United States are pre-diabetic, like Elgin.
Cindy Bohac, certified diabetes educator at Edward Hospital, explains that it takes very little to diagnose diabetes — just a simple finger stick.
“It’s not risky. It’s not invasive.”
But the disease is. Diabetes can cause kidney failure, nerve damage, loss of eyesight, and can lead to lower limb amputation. It’s also a major contributor to heart disease and stroke.
Elgin took the threat of the disease and its complications seriously. She and her doctor got to work finding tools to change her lifestyle.
“I didn’t know about all these things that could be wrong with me,” she says. Her request of the doctor was simple: “tell me how I can fix it.”
Elgin attended a seminar on eating right, eliminating junk food and fast foods. For the first time, she learned how to cook.
“Within the first month, I noticed a drastic change,” Elgin says. “I lost weight, real fast. And I gained energy.”
And it was a different energy than what she’d been relying on from sugar or caffeinated drinks.
Next her doctor gave her a 30-day exercise plan. But Elgin couldn’t make it stick — until she joined a “Body Overhaul Challenge” through the free employee fitness center at Navistar. In the challenge, she was able to set and achieve weight-loss goals. And there she found a personal trainer who could encourage her along.
Since then Elgin has lost 70 pounds. Her blood pressure is normal. And her blood sugar level has stabilized.
Elgin is no longer pre-diabetic.
She shared her story during a recent program at Navistar recognizing the first Illinois Diabetes Awareness Day.
State Rep. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville), a member of the Illinois Diabetes Caucus, which initiated the statewide awareness campaign, was on hand for the event.
“It was very well received,” he says of the inaugural Diabetes Awareness Day, which included programs and screenings in districts across the state.
“What drew me to this was the potential enormity of the problem for not just Illinois but the country,” Connelly says.
He encourages Illinoisians to be active in getting regular checkups and tests, because of the benefits of early detection.
Bohac echoes the need for screenings.
“It’s huge, especially for people at risk” she said. “If people don’t go to their physician regularly, they don’t get screened, and they can have diabetes without being aware. Damage could be happening.”
But as Elgin shows, with screening it’s possible to prevent the disease and to control its effects.
“This is a lifestyle change,” she says. “It’s not something you stop. You’ve got to change your whole attitude.”
That means being proactive in caring for our health and getting regular screenings. Connelly agrees.
“It’s exciting that so many are playing a role in trying to bring awareness,” he says. “It could be an incredibly important success story in Illinois.”