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Brownsville Man Changes His Lifestyle to Manage His Diabetes

By Ian Rollins

Richard Headley of Brownsville has watched several relatives deteriorate because they didn’t manage their health conditions. It’s all the motivation he needs to proactively manage his diabetes.

“If you don’t take your meds, they won’t help you,” said Headley, 66. “If you don’t change the way you live, it won’t help you. My dad had heart problems and was prescribed medication for high blood pressure. He wouldn’t take the meds, and he ended up with an aneurysm.”

Headley also has two brothers with diabetes. One has had three strokes and now resides in a skilled nursing facility.

“He wouldn’t do what he needed to do,” Headley says simply. “My other brother, he’s still working on his diabetes, but he has the mentality of ‘if I eat something I’m not supposed to, I’ll take more meds.’ That’s not changing.”

Headley’s journey started with stressful living and a diagnosis of pre-diabetes several years ago. He was also diagnosed with carpal tunnel issues in his back, which led to five back and knee-related surgeries in a year and a half.

He went from the stress of recovery into the stress of building a house in Brownsville, which he and his wife Tami moved into at the end of 2018.

“I hadn’t been in to see my doctor in awhile, so I went for my yearly check-up,” Headley says. “I knew my numbers would be bad. My doctor did the blood tests, and my A1C was over 10.”

Headley’s doctor started him on medications immediately, but his numbers were still high a month later. His doctor referred him to the Diabetes Education team at Samaritan Albany General Hospital.

“Tari and I did the three-part Diabetes Education class together – she’s pre-diabetic and we both wanted to change how we ate,” Headley said. “The classes were really helpful. We learned what we could eat and what we shouldn’t, and we learned what happens to our blood sugar when we eat the wrong things.”

Headley also saw Diabetes Educator Barbara George for one-on-one counseling, and after three months of management, he got his A1C down to 6.5.

“The team does a great job with the classes, and I really appreciate their help,” Headley said. “But you have to understand this is a lifestyle change, not just a diet. You either have to make a change or go on like my two brothers who aren’t doing very well.”

The Headleys have also found camaraderie among church friends who are working on lifestyle changes. They regularly share recipes and success stories.

Headley’s goal now is to keep dropping weight – he’s lost about 14 pounds but he’s not done. He knows eating right will help, as well as managing their five-acre property.

“I have a lot of grass to weed, and I’ve been planting trees and moving dirt,” he said. “When I’m not landscaping, I’ll go for a walk.”

Get inspired by more patients taking charge of their diabetes diagnosis.