Local News

Walking the walk

The May 2010 issue of Your Health featured Highlands County resident Marjorie Hedajer. In that issue, Hedajer was 86 years old and shared her story about managing her Type 2 diabetes.

On July 12, she will celebrate her 90th birthday; she has lived with Type 2 diabetes for 20 years. What makes Hedajer’s case special is that she has lived with the disease without taking insulin. Instead, she takes oral prescription medications and controls the disease with diet and exercise.

Hedajer walks every day. Since 1943, she has walked to help her maintain a healthy weight. Right out of high school, she walked to and from work at the Eagle Signals Corporation in Moline, Ill., where she worked for more than 32 years. This initial walking helped her to lose 30 pounds and she has kept the weight off the rest of her life.

“I don’t like to exercise,” Hedajer said. “I just walk and that is fun.”

She currently takes four pills a day and walks 3-5 miles at the Lakeshore Mall in Sebring. She has built relationships with the security guards and is frequently seen waving to store employees as she passes by the shops.

Four years later, Highlands Today caught up with Hedajer to find out how she is doing:

Q: How have you felt since the article ran in 2010?

Answer: “I feel great,” Hedajer said. “I feel so good; I am scared I might have a stroke or something.”

Q: Has anyone in your family ever had diabetes?

Answer: “My mother lived to be 94 and she never had it. My half-brother is 95 and he has never had it either,” she said. “My father died when he was in his late 50s so he could have had it.”

Q: Do you use other resources in Highlands County for diabetes?

Answer: “No, I just walk,” she said. “I should join a group to get involved but I haven’t yet. I walk fast and no one walks as fast as me, so I haven’t found anyone to walk with me. I had a girlfriend who walked with me, but she moved back up north.”

Q: Have you built relationships with the employees at the Lakeshore Mall?

Answer: “I know all the security guards and the mall manager,” she said. “I lost my keys one day and the manager drove me to my house to find the spare keys and brought me back to the mall. They are all very kind people.”

“The worst part of my health is my memory,” she said. “I carry a small purse when I walk with a ring on the handle. I put my index finger in the ring after I finish my first lap around the mall. I rotate to a different finger until I have put all five fingers in the ring. That is the only way I know I have done my five laps,” she said.

“My doctor says walking helps every organ in my body so maybe it can help my memory too,” she said.

Hedajer’s doctor is Dr. Robert A. Midence with Highlands Medical Group. Midence tells her to keep up the good work and continue to walk.

Many diabetics can develop neuropathy in their feet, which can be very painful, but Hedajer feels walking keeps it at bay. “I have never had any pain in my legs or feet, but I do have carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists,” she said.

She also tries to eat a healthy diet and follow her doctor’s orders. “I hardly ever eat away from home, so it is easy for me to watch my diet,” Hedajer said. “I do have a couple of weaknesses; red wine and mashed potatoes. If I do eat mashed potatoes, I go down my street and walk as fast as I can to the stop sign and back. When I get home, my blood sugar levels are back to normal,” she said.

In a 2013 study conducted by George Washington University, it was found that walking for 15 minutes after each meal of the day reduced the risk of diabetes and managed blood sugar levels of diabetics. The study suggests either 45 minutes of sustained walking or 15 minutes of walking three times a day were just as effective.

Q: What do you want people to learn from your story?

Answer: “I am 90 years old and I am walking. If people are sitting, I want them to be healthy. I want people to get up and move for their health.” Hedajer said.