Share on PinterestLupe Barraza spent years trying to make healthier choices to manage her diabetes. Now she shares how she took control of her health and happiness and started her best life. Photography courtesy of Lupe Barraza
- Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Know Diabetes by Heart is an initiative to educate people about the link between diabetes and heart health.
- There are ways to treat type 2 diabetes and improve heart health.
In early 2016, Lupe Barraza woke up every day with a tingling sensation in his hands and feet.
“I couldn’t make a fist, it was so painful,” Barraza told Healthline.
She also lost hair and gained 70 pounds in just a few years. During this time, she lived under stress with her abusive second husband in Houston, Texas.
“My surroundings became dangerous because I wasn’t in Dallas. … my stress level was [through] the roof, ”said Barraza.
By spring she had the courage to see a doctor. Barraza learned that her glucose levels were in her upper 300s and that she had type 2 diabetes.
“After the diagnosis, I tried to change my diet and walk. I lost about 20 pounds, but it seemed threatening to my husband – I was feeling good about myself and my health – and I was getting back to old habits. My self-esteem wasn’t good, ”said Barraza.
Barraza was familiar with the ups and downs of her health. In 2009 she learned she was prediabetic.
“I knew it was imminent because my dad is the youngest of 13 and about 80 percent of them have type 2 diabetes and the majority of them died from type 2 and heart disease. [My dad] was diagnosed when he was in his forties, ”said Barraza.
The American Diabetes Association states that people with an immediate family member with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes themselves because of genetic factors, as well as lifestyle habits such as exercise, eating habits, and stress.
Knowing this, Barraza worked hard to break out of her family history. In 2009 she started running and changing her diet. Between 2010 and 2012, she built up stamina to run 10 marathons and two ultramarathons.
“I was in [the] best shape of my life. I went back to school and got my bachelor’s, master’s and CPA’s, ”said Barraza. “But unfortunately the burdens on me [first] The marriage did not survive. In spring 2012 I got divorced and lost myself. “
From 2012 to 2019, Barraza said she was physically and emotionally in survival mode.
“My mother had a stroke in March 2019 that woke up [me] to the reality of my health. I didn’t feel good and I was so heavy. I would know [I was] smart and had a great career, however [I was] live and die in hell, ”she said.
Barraza decided to take control of her health for her six children.
“I used my mother’s health to return home and get away from my husband. The day I was putting things away, I got the call that my father had a heart attack and we were told he had a 10 percent chance of survival, ”Barraza said.
While her father was leaving the hospital, long-term damage from type 2 diabetes caused a number of amputations, including toes, foot parts and left leg.
“Seeing him and making decisions with my brothers is not something I want for my children, so I got mad at myself for knowing better. I started to position myself mentally first [for change],” She said.
In June 2019, she bought a house near her mother and left her second husband. After settling down, she found a doctor she trusted and began reconnecting with friends.
“You are my tribe of very strong, intelligent and successful women. … As a mother and being a professional and having a support system from my doctor for those around me gave me the confidence I needed, ”said Barraza.
As she gained confidence, she also built self-worth. In September 2019 she started walking again during lunch breaks.
“I couldn’t run a mile, and 9 years ago I ran 6 miles every morning. … I slowly changed my diet. I knew how to eat and how to be healthy. I just didn’t have the courage or the energy to do it [until then],” She said.
By February 2020, Barraza was able to handle walking / running intervals and eventually increased her pace for jogging and running. Today, at the age of 45, she runs 100 miles a month and is registered for a “comeback marathon” in May 2021.
“I just did my 18-mile practice run last Saturday and that’s my marker,” said Barraza.
She also lowered her A1C from 11.5 to 5.4, cut her drug dose in half, lowered her blood pressure and lost 65 pounds.
“When I started getting serotonin high [from exercising]It helped my mentality and made me happy again. My skin is better. My smile is better. My whole person is completely different, ”said Barraza.
To encourage other women to take control of their health, Barraza participates in Know Diabetes by Heart, a joint effort by the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association to reduce cardiovascular disease and deaths in people with type 2 – reduce diabetes.
“My message is that … we have control and choice,” said Barraza. “When we look at myself, my mother and older generations, we put everyone first and don’t take the time to remind ourselves that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be there for everyone else. This is the story for so many women from so many different cultures. “
By sharing her story, Barraza aims to inspire other women to learn about the link between type 2 diabetes and heart health.
“Cardiovascular disease – heart disease and stroke – are the leading killer of people with type 2 diabetes, but the link is not always made or well understood by people with type 2 diabetes,” said Teri L. Hernandez, PhD. Associate Health for Research and Scholarships at the University of Colorado College of Nursing, Healthline said.
As a volunteer for Know Diabetes by Heart, Hernandez said a survey commissioned by the initiative found that around half of people with type 2 diabetes aged 45 and over understand their increased risk or have discussed it with their doctor.
The risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke is increased if blood sugar is not controlled in diabetics, said Dr. Genevieve Lama, endocrinologist with the New York-Presbyterian Medical Group in the Hudson Valley.
However, numerous studies have not shown a reduction in cardiovascular problems with improving blood sugar control alone, she said.
“This means that diabetes cardiovascular disease involves more than just controlling blood sugar,” Lama told Healthline.
The good news, she said, is that there are ways to reduce your risk, including the following:
- Stay active with at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity such as brisk walking, dancing, yoga or recreational swimming or 75 minutes of intense activity such as jogging, running, playing tennis or cycling.
- A balanced diet focused on vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and lean animal / fish protein.
- Maintain a healthy weight determined by your doctor.
- Limit sodium to less than 1500 mg daily.
- Limit alcohol up to 2 or fewer drinks per day for men or at most 1 drink per day for women.
- Control blood pressure with a goal of less than 130/80 in most cases.
- Avoid tobacco use.
For those who have a history of heart attack, vascular bypass, stroke, leg vascular disease, or angina, Lama said to speak to your doctor about taking aspirin.
“Your doctor can decide if you are at high risk of bleeding. If so, aspirin is not recommended,” she said. Aspirin is also recommended for people at high risk for cardiovascular disease with a 10-year risk greater than 10 percent (your doctor can calculate this risk using a risk calculator algorithm developed by the American Heart Association) You are not at high risk for internal bleeding. “
Lama said a doctor might recommend taking a statin as follows:
- most people with diabetes are between the ages of 40 and 75
- Some people under 40 and over 75 are based on risk factors like smoking, lipid levels, and more
Treatment for type 2 diabetes is possible, and while it may be part of your story, Hernandez said this is not the end of your story.
“There are so many new ways you can treat your type 2 diabetes. My advice is to learn as much as you can, to talk to your doctor about managing your risk for heart disease and stroke, and to surround yourself with supportive people, ”she said.