His diabetes diagnosis wasn’t a total surprise to Charles Cellura. His mother, aunt, and grandfather all developed the disease in their late 60s. At age 55, Cellura was already seeing his doctor to keep tabs on his high cholesterol, a risk factor for diabetes.
So when he started feeling thirsty and tired all the time, he immediately made another appointment. “I had an inkling I might have diabetes,” says Cellura, who lives in Rockville Centre, on New York’s Long Island. “But it still took me off guard.” Fortunately, he’s flexible and able to roll with the punches.
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“I’m an adapter,” says Cellura, 60. “I’m constantly making changes and setting new goals.” He has to be that way to do his work overseeing design and construction of municipal buildings for the city of New York. “My life is one big plan,” he says.
And Cellura wants that plan to be as healthful as possible. “My wife’s paternal grandmother also had diabetes,” he says. “I watched her not deal with it well, and she lost her sight due to
the disease. I thought, ‘How would I survive without seeing?’ That is always foremost in my mind.”
A plan for health
Cellura was already exercising to manage his cholesterol. But his plan now was to ramp up his activity and control carbohydrates—and flexibility paid off for him once again.
Take yoga. Cellura was introduced to the low-stress exercise as a competitive swimmer in high school. He picked it up again briefly as an adult, letting it lapse when life got too hectic. “I became very serious about yoga again after I was diagnosed,” he says. At one point, he was taking a yoga class almost every day. When his teacher moved, he had to rethink his routine.
“Yoga is still part of what I do, but it’s good to go with the flow and look for different adventures to keep things exciting,” he says. Now he and his wife are taking up ballroom dancing.
Cellura has also set his sights on training to ride a bike 64 miles from his home near the New York City border to the other end of Long Island. He’s also an avid walker and often pumps 10-pound dumbbells while watching TV. “I feel compelled to move because exercise keeps my blood sugar about 20 points lower,” he says. On the diet front, he’s cut back on desserts and switched to whole wheat pasta.For 2 years, measures like these kept Cellura’s blood sugar under control. His doctor just prescribed medicine for the first time to pull back his sugars as they started to inch higher. “The body moves on,” Cellura says. “You just have to adjust.”
Charles' Success Strategies
- Keep records. It’s tough to make adjustments if you don’t know what’s going on. Cellura tracks the foods he eats, his blood sugar readings, and his weight each day.
- Revisit old skills. In addition to first trying yoga in high school, Cellura was a competitive ballroom dancer back in the 1960s. “It’s just fun,” Cellura says.
- Be open to adventure. At the same time, flexibility means not limiting yourself to what you’ve done before. Cellura’s idea of biking across Long Island is new to him. “I don’t even know what kind of bike I need—yet.”