Healthy, Happy and Exercising

Wayne's Story

The Centers for Disease Control recently estimated more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. Wayne Ramsey of Big Lake wants to make sure he doesn’t become one of those statistics.

Wayne in his gardenRamsey is the first to admit that he had poor eating habits, didn’t exercise much, carried too much weight on his 6-foot 4-inch frame and drank two liters of Diet Coke daily. These circumstances, combined with a family history of diabetes, put him at risk of developing the chronic illness. 

Four years ago, Ramsey was “just about as close as you could be to being diabetic” when he walked out of a doctor’s office visit where he was given the diagnosis of prediabetes. His fasting blood sugar was 162 (well above the norm of 100 to 125) and his hemoglobin A1c was 6.2 percent (above the norm of 5.7), placing him very close to the threshold for diabetes.

“I have a real strong feeling about not getting diabetes. Diabetes kills a lot of people,” Ramsey said. “I have seen diabetes firsthand and you don’t want any part of that. I was given a second chance, and I don’t look at this second shot lightly at all.”

Ramsey took that news as a call to action. He enrolled in the Diabetes Education Program at Skagit Regional Health and began following the advice of the dietitians – aka “food coaches” – to eat healthy foods, exercise more and drop the diet soda habit. By following their advice, he saw results.

“They gave me hope right away,” he said. “I listen to everything they tell me. They always answer my questions. As a patient who cares about my health, that’s important to me.”

Four years later, the 60-year-old agriculture teacher at Sedro-Woolley High School has lost 50 pounds, his blood sugar is 125-126 and the A1c is 5.5, well within normal range.

Ramsey has worked hard to change his numbers.

“I know I have a shot at avoiding diabetes, so I work really hard,” Ramsey said. “If I don’t stay on top of it, it could get to a point where I can’t manage it.”

Wayne working out at gymRamsey’s physical activity schedule is impressive. His regimen includes tennis, swimming, walking hills, splitting wood, walks after every meal and gym workouts. In the gym at Riverside Health Club, his sessions include 450 crunches, 15 pullups, 45 curls, 45 butterflies and an hour of swimming before he hits the steam room.

Education about diet, exercise and prevention has been key and Ramsey enjoys working with Registered Dietitian Christina Sackman who teaches classes at Skagit Regional Health and provides support to patients.

“We teach the basics of nutrition and remind patients why we need to eat more vegetables and how to do it,” Sackman said. “The diabetic diet is really about portion control. It’s about more vegetables and less carbohydrates and controlling those portions – that’s a big issue.”

Sackman said she has enjoyed the chance to work with Ramsey, who she says is an inspiration to her.

“He makes me feel encouraged, just because he is so excited to receive the information. It’s refreshing,” she said. “It’s all about the patient. Even if they try one little thing, one step to a healthier lifestyle, those small changes add up.”

Ramsey knows about that firsthand.

“I thought my life was over when I walked out of that doctor’s office over four years ago,” he said. “But this hospital, clinic, these people and coaches, they are gifts. They gave me hope.”