Read Ronald Dolan's Story
For years, Ronald Dolan took a pill to lower his blood sugar every day and didn’t give it much thought. But, when he went for a regular check up with his doctor in 2013, the tests came back showing that he had prediabetes. Without intervention, he developed type 2 diabetes. When that happened, the doctor told Ronald that he needed to change his diet immediately, and that he should head to the Nutrition Education Center at South Shore Hospital.
When Ronald arrived at the Nutrition Education Center, his HgA1C level had dangerously soared to 9 percent. The A1C test is a common blood test that measures what percentage of hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen — is coated with glucose (blood sugar). Normal range for A1C is between 4 and 5.6 percent. A1C levels between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicate prediabetes and an increased risk of diabetes. A1C levels of 6.5 percent or higher indicate diabetes.
Meeting with a registered dietitian was a revelation for Ronald. Though not particularly heavy — he weighed about 170 pounds and is 5'6" — when he first began a healthy eating program, he had never given a thought to carbohydrates or calories. “Before, I ate whatever I wanted and I was always a beer drinker,” recalls Ronald, 69, who worked in construction until his retirement. With the help of a registered dietitian, Ronald made important changes to his diet. The dietitian gave ideas on how to reduce foods high in processed carbs, and choose carbs that are whole grains and more nutritious. “I stopped drinking cold turkey,” he recalls. “I eliminated donuts, muffins, bagels at breakfast and I started eating Cheerios and berries.”
Part of Ronald’s change in habits came through education. “Now, I read the labels for the nutrition values,” he explains. “I’ll put something in my carriage at the market and then I’ll read the label, and I put it back if it isn’t good for me.”
The education component was key because too often items that are thought to be healthy are not. “I didn’t know a bran muffin was a bad thing to eat,” says Ronald, who now knows that most market or bakery muffins are very large and therefore have too much sugar and are high in calories. “I always thought it was a good thing, but it’s not.”
Today, Ronald is 20 pounds lighter and has pushed his A1C down to 6 percent. He charts his daily eating, and though he now drinks the occasional light beer, he sticks to a regimen of healthy food choices and frequent exercise. “I’m never hungry,” he says. “I thought it would be tough to change my eating habits but I stayed focused on what it would lead to if I didn’t make the changes. I should have started this 30 years ago. If the doctor hadn’t told me about the risks, I might never have gone to South Shore Hospital dietitians.”