How Learning to Manage Type 2 Diabetes Made One Couple’s Marriage Stronger

When Al Garcilazo was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, his wife made it her mission to help him get healthy, and in the end, their bond became even stronger.

When 60-year-old Al Garcilazo was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2014, he faced the news head on, maintaining that despite having a family history of the disease, he was determined to turn his health around.

“I wanted to do the best I could to overcome it — to reverse the diabetes,” says Garcilazo, PhD, a supervisor of chaplain services at Adventist Health Glendale, a faith-based, nonprofit health system in California.

So Dr. Garcilazo, who had been prescribed the type 2 diabetes drug Glucophage (metformin) for high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), began cutting out fast and processed food, such as packaged sweets, as well as refined carbohydrates, like white bread, rice, and tortillas. Instead, he started reaching for whole, fresh foods high in fiber and low in carbs, including green, leafy veggies, beans and legumes, fruits, and healthy fat from avocado and nuts — all components in a healthy diet for type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. He also began walking for 40 to 50 minutes four to five times each week.

As a result, Garcilazo says he lost about 30 pounds within less than a year of his diagnosis, and reduced his A1C — a two- to three-month average of blood sugar levels — from 7.4, which is considered diabetes, to 5.7, which is considered the lowest threshold for prediabetes. His doctor also took him off metformin, Garcilazo says.

A major key to the success: support from his wife of 34 years, Nancy Garcilazo, Al Garcilazo says.

“It was hard for him, but when you have a strong motivation, that makes everything easier,” says Nancy Garcilazo, 56, who took cooking inspiration from the vegan-based diet recommended by Joel Fuhrman in The End of Diabetes, and encouraged her husband to join her on her neighborhood walks.

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