Early Diagnosis Can Inspire Lifestyle Change For Type 2 Diabetes Patients

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Gifford Slater knows that the 400-calorie, pre-packaged apple pies he bought from convenience stores as he traveled throughout central Vermont selling ads for WDEV radio contributed to his type 2 diabetes.

"I brought it on myself," Slater said. "Before I lost my weight, people looked more at my chin and my stomach. Now they are looking at me."

Slater no longer eats high calorie, pre-packaged foods and has lost 64 pounds, down from a high of 300, in less than five months by strictly following diet advice provided by a clinical dietician referred to him by his physician.

The Vermont Department of Health hopes that other Vermonters will follow Slater's example as part of the American Diabetes Association's 21st annual Diabetes Alert Day. Diabetes Alert Day is a one-day wake-up call to encourage people to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing diabetes. To take the test, visit the diabetes prevention and control program page at healthvermont.gov.


Slater said he put off getting his blood tested for years. Avoidance is just one reason many people are diagnosed seven to 10 years after the onset of the disease.

"Early diagnosis is essential to successfully treat — and prevent or delay — complications of diabetes like heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke and amputation," said Health Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD. "Everyone should be aware of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes such as being overweight or inactive."

In Vermont, an estimated 40,000 people, mostly adults, have diabetes and 90,000 have "pre-diabetes," a condition that usually leads to diabetes unless excess body weight is lost or physical activity is increased. Twenty-two percent of adult Vermonters are obese and 37 percent are overweight.

Diabetes is the first chronic disease Vermont's Blueprint for Health focused on in developing clinical care guidelines and community-based resources like Healthier Living workshops.

Slater credits his dietician, Ilene Siegel, RD CDE, a diabetes educator at Central Vermont Medical Center, with turning his life around. He is a ski instructor at Stowe Mountain Resort each weekend and finds the leaner 6-foot-3, 235-pound version of himself able to stay on the slopes, energized, the entire day.

"There is a lot of pride involved in planning what you are going to eat each day and writing down every calorie. What it comes down to is planning," said Slater, a 1979 graduate of Norwich University and a former Army officer. "I found the right people to talk to, and I had the strength to change my life."