At 25, Donna Young has warm eyes, and a confident, lovely smile. She seems too young to worry about her health, much less about getting diabetes.
But in an interview at the Indian Health Service Hospital in Phoenix where she is a research volunteer, Donna says she has to think about it. Grandparents on both sides of the family had diabetes. "My dad and my mom have it, so there are lots of points against me." Although lots of her family members are aware that diabetes is in the family, Donna says, they think it won't affect them.
"That's how I was," she adds, until her aunt, also aged 25, was diagnosed as diabetic a year ago. "I did the oral glucose test and my blood sugar was 143 and that's borderline." She and a friend started walking two miles every morning. She exercised and watched her diet. Three months later, Donna's oral glucose tolerance test was 93. "I was all excited," she recounts. "I lost 5 centimeters off my thigh, and 4 off my waist." Mike Milner, an NIDDK physician's assistant who works closely with patients, said it really showed, she adds with pleasure.
"My mom was always telling me to watch my weight because she's diabetic, but I always just brushed it off. Then when I saw the results, I was all surprised and it made me happy. When I told my mom, she goes, 'Oh, I've been telling you all this time,' " Donna laughs. Her recently diagnosed aunt has been walking with her, too. "She's lost a lot of weight, and her blood sugar's gone down. She goes for regular check-ups, and she feels better. Before it didn't seem like she had too much energy. She has three young boys, and now she has a lot more energy to play with them," Donna adds.
Having seen how diabetes affects family members, Donna admits she was scared by her high blood sugar a year ago. Now, she's pleased to think she can prevent getting diabetes for a while. "I'm slowing it down with my weight loss and everything. It made such a big difference."