Diabetes Forecast

Tips on Living Well With Type 2

Bernadette D’Antonio is an active role model for seniors with diabetes

By Lindsey Wahowiak , , , , ,
Bernadette D'Antonio

Bernadette D'Antonio
Photograph by Laura Petrilla

I have a lot of good friends and we swim together. If I miss, they call me.
Bernadette D'Antonio, who lives with type 2 diabetes

Bernadette “Bernie” D’Antonio is a great example of living well with type 2 diabetes—if you can find a break in her busy schedule to get her to talk about it.

Diagnosed in 2004 after two heart attacks, D’Antonio, 72, of White Oak, Pa., manages her diabetes with metformin, careful eating for health, and lots of exercise. She has always been committed to being healthy but was worried she had done something wrong to “deserve” her diagnosis. D’Antonio says fighting the stigma that can come with type 2 diabetes helped her work through her emotions.

“Sometimes you just wonder, what did I do wrong?” she says. “We always had good nutrition. There was no soda in the house. I walked 2 miles every day for forever. … The only thing I could blame it on would be genetics.”

But D’Antonio, who is enjoying retirement from a career as a secretary and student registrar at the University of Pittsburgh, doesn’t “waste time emotionally” dwelling on the past. She’s focused on her present and future. “I don’t have the time to get down or depressed or worry about stuff like that,” she says. “If I take care of the things I’m supposed to take care of, and stuff still happens, that’s beyond my control.”

Bernadette D'Antonio and her walking buddy, Niko.
Photograph by Laura Petrilla

What is in control? Her medication, eating plan, and exercise. D’Antonio counts carbohydrate grams, but she’s also focused on portion control—especially with the fruit she loves, which can trigger high blood glucose if she eats too much at once. She worked with a diabetes educator and dietitian at diagnosis. D’Antonio still walks 2 miles every day and swims three times a week. She has people—and critters—to hold her accountable. “First of all, I have a dog [and two cats, all rescues], and that keeps me walking,” she says. “And I have a lot of good friends and we swim together. If I miss, they call me.” All that hard work pays off—her latest A1C was 5.9 percent, and she’s had no new diabetes complications.

D’Antonio has plenty to motivate her to stay healthy. She volunteers with Meals on Wheels, at a food bank, and with her church. She has a group of friends that started as a Bible study but is now almost a support group. The group, made up of other retired women, has gone beyond home gatherings to museums, concerts, and other outings. They’re all positive people, and D’Antonio says that fuels good attitudes that last even when the group isn’t together.

“I think being with positive people, that’s important,” she says. “I don’t like to hang out with people who constantly complain about their health—they have this ache and that pain. We all have it!”

While she’s busy, D’Antonio doesn’t overextend herself. When she was working, D’Antonio says she was always the first person to volunteer for an assignment or offer to help on a project. That led to stress, which she thinks contributed to her heart attacks. So now, she says, “I kind of pick and choose. If I feel I have a little too much on my plate, I do know when to say no now, and I think that has helped a great deal.”

And taking time for herself is especially important now that she has another motivation to stay healthy: her 2-year-old grandson, Declan Thomas McMurtrie. “He’s the light of my life,” D’Antonio says. “I am trying to keep myself healthy for him.”

Bernie’s Health Tips

Slow down? Not this senior. Here are Bernadette D’Antonio’s best health tips.

Watch portion sizes. Rightsizing your servings helps you manage carbs and calories.

Stay active. Short walks and swims are easy on the joints but still heart-healthy.

Don’t stress. Do things you enjoy without overloading yourself.

Stay positive. Surround yourself with friends and family who make you feel good!



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