Special Reports

No miracles, but here is hope

Diabetes cost my sister a leg. But not before it blurred her vision, casting halos around whatever object was her focus.

The vision problems were bad, but she managed. Not so with the loss of a limb. It hurt a lot to use her prosthetic leg and she never embraced therapy. The lack of physical activity caused other health issues, and she became increasingly dependent on others for routine care. I’m sure she was depressed, but it was depressing to watch her demise.

She was 68 when she died. That surprised some people because she never looked, or acted, her age. Every month was her birthday if it meant getting a gift, but for much of her later years, before illness really set her back, she seemed ageless.

My sister was not the only person in my immediate family affected by diabetes. My mom managed her diabetes fairly well. Still, her doctors point to it as a factor as her health declined. One of my three brothers also has serious diabetes-related health issues.

So you’d think I’d be more careful about my own health. Truth is, I “think” about staying well a lot more than I practice being healthy. The weight keeps piling on. I keep stepping on the scale expecting a miracle. Surely eight glasses of water a day will chase away the ill effects of all the empty calories, sugar and fat consumed.

Like many working folks, hours at work are longer and time at home shorter. Even with the best of intentions, I find myself in the fast-food lane way too often. My children and some of their friends have learned to prefer fast food versus home-cooked.

To ease the guilt, many restaurants, even the fast-food variety, offer healthier choices. But that’s relative, especially for those of us watching salt and sugar intake.

Being healthy, of course, is not just about weight control. Fast-food joints are not the only ones offering curbside service. Sit-down restaurants gladly serve us from our vehicles. We can fill our tanks with gas practically without getting out of our SUVs. We can drive through to pick up our dry cleaning. And the world seems too dangerous to let the kids walk beyond our sight, so they stay inside and entertain themselves with their shiny new laptops and hand-held games.

When Telegraph Night News Editor Renee Martinez Corwine suggested the newspaper consider a project on health and fitness, I was sold. From the beginning, we talked about a project that wouldn’t be the same-old, same-old. Folks know eating too much and exercising too little is bad. Our goal is to get people in our community to act.

So today, we are launching “Tighten Your Belt,” a 2010 project aimed at drawing attention to the need to lead healthier lives.

In every section of today’s paper — from Page One to Sports — there is a story related to the issue of health and fitness. For our opening story, reporter Joe Kovac Jr. was asked to document what ails us in Middle Georgia. I know from previous Telegraph reports that diabetes is not just a problem with my family, but an epidemic in this country. Heart problems are another of the chronic illnesses impacting our health. As Joe reports, obesity is a common thread among many of the diseases that rob us of years and cost our communities fortunes.

Genetics play a role in some of these health problems, but better personal choices could greatly improve the quality of life for individuals and the community.

Telegraph reporters are already at work on other stories that will be part of this project, but the newspaper welcomes input from readers. We won’t simply focus on problems. We know there are plenty of inspirational stories that show what people can accomplish when they really put their hearts into it. We also hope to be a conduit for groups and organizations that sponsor health fairs, walks, races and other fitness and health events available to the public.

Frankly, we hope our reporting will extend a life, or even save one.

Let us hear from you. You can e-mail Renee Martinez Corwine at rmartinez@macon.com, or me at smarshall@macon.com.

Sherrie Marshall is the executive editor of The Telegraph.

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