Beating pre-diabetes through diet and exercise

November 03, 2021

Luciano Chavez Jr. with his fiance, Ashley BennettWhen Luciano Chavez Jr. first learned he could develop a condition called pre-diabetes, he was a bit shocked, but upbeat. “The doctor told me I would have to make a few adjustments and that the condition wouldn’t be permanent,” Chavez recalled. “I thought I would be alright as long as I did the bare minimum.”

Follow-up tests and bloodwork, however, revealed that the “bare minimum” was hardly enough. His primary care provider (PCP) then prescribed medications that controlled his blood pressure, blood sugar levels and high cholesterol. Chavez’s health improved, but he “looked at that half-page of meds” and decided he could do better.

He also had, perhaps, an even greater incentive: his fiancé, Ashley Bennett (see photo). “In 2019, we bought a house and started our lives together,” he said. “I’ve never been happier in my personal life. How can I say I’m going to be there for her if I can’t take care of myself?”

Chavez then started an exercise program that combined muscle conditioning with yoga. He got a referral from his PCP to see a nutrition specialist who helped him determine what he should—and shouldn’t—be eating or drinking. Goodbye, sweet tea. “It was hard at first, but now it’s second nature to eat healthy,” he said.

In following his plan, Chavez dropped 50 pounds, which further spurred his motivation. “I’m back to where I was pre-diagnosis, and that is a huge weight off my shoulders,” he said, pun intended.

Chavez, an inventory store specialist with Texas Health and Human Services (HHS), is a HealthSelect of Texas® participant. As a result, he had no out-of-pocket costs for his preventive check-up, which led to his diagnosis. He paid $40 for his visit with the nutrition specialist; other out-of-pocket expenses included what he paid for his prescriptions.

Access to high quality, but relatively low-cost health care is one reason Chavez sought a job with the state and HHS. “These benefits will help me stay healthy,” he said. “It gives me peace of mind to know that wherever I go, I’ll be taken care of.”

Although state employment didn’t happen right away—Chavez started applying for state positions in 2014—he was thrilled when his persistence paid off. Hired in 2018 as HHS’ lead receiver, Chavez logs in “anything that’s considered property,” he said. “It’s part of asset management. I track everything [that comes to HHS]—from books to computers.”

While his job keeps him busy, Chavez makes time for wellness activities available to state of Texas employees, both through HealthSelect and through agency-wide competitions like Get Fit Texas, which is where he first shared his wellness story in 2021. Chavez hopes his experience “provides that extra motivation” to others who may face a pre-diabetes diagnosis. “It doesn’t hurt to hear another perspective,” Chavez said. “It can be helpful to see how to get from point A to point B when you have a potentially life-changing health situation.”