Wanda Santiago

After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Wanda Santiago has lost more than 30 pounds through healthier eating and exercise habits, which is helping keep her condition under control.

Wanda Santiago, a Registrar at Northwell Health’s New Hyde Park campus, went to see her primary care doctor last spring with concerns about her weight—and her health. She had put on nearly 60 pounds over the course of a few years, and felt tired and sluggish almost all the time. “My energy level had always been high, so I was worried,” she said. “I knew something wasn’t right.”

The diagnosis—and the prescription

Wanda’s fears were confirmed when her doctor told her that she had Type 2 diabetes and prescribed Metformin (a diabetes drug that helps regulate blood sugar levels). Type 2 diabetes put Wanda at risk for a number of conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease and cataracts, but her doctor told her she could lower her risk if she took her medication and made some lifestyle changes. “I was relieved to know that there was a lot I could do to bring the diabetes under control,” she said. “But I was scared as well, because I knew that change can be hard.”

Meal makeover

Wanda immediately stopped drinking sugary soda and was soon drinking as many as eight glasses of water a day. She also cut fast foods, except on very rare occasions. “We used to eat a lot of takeout,” she said. “But not anymore!” She and her husband, Oscar Lopez, now enjoy homemade meals, with salads, baked chicken, and fresh fruits and vegetables among their favorites.

“It’s been quite a year, but I wouldn’t have known where to begin, or why it was so important, without my health benefits. Living a healthier life has been worth every bit of effort. I’m full of energy and feel like my old self again!”

What Do Your Benefits Mean to You?

You count on your health benefits to support you in your efforts to stay healthy, whether it’s by getting regular checkups, keeping a chronic condition under control or just improving your lifestyle in general. But has there ever been a time when your health coverage literally saved your life or the life of a loved one? If so, we’d like to hear from you. To share your story with your fellow members in an upcoming issue of For Your Benefit, please contact the Fund at Communications@1199Funds.org.

Exercise boost

Following her doctor’s recommendation, Wanda began walking regularly, and it didn’t take long before she had established a healthy routine. She walks for at least 30 minutes in the morning and then goes out again at lunchtime when the weather is nice, using an exercise tracker to track her progress. “I hit 10,000 steps every day,” she said proudly.

Improved Health

Wanda knew that her healthier habits were making a difference when she lost 10 pounds in less than six months. When she went to a Benefit Fund health fair at Northwell a few months later, she learned she had lost 20 pounds. Motivated by her progress, she has since lost another 11 pounds, putting her more than halfway to her goal weight of 140 pounds. Her blood sugar levels are back within a healthy range, and if she sticks with her healthy lifestyle, she may no longer need medication—another one of her goals. “It’s been quite a year, but I wouldn’t have known where to begin, or why it was so important, without my health benefits,” she said. “Living a healthier life has been worth every bit of effort. I’m full of energy and feel like my old self again!”

Marcella Smart

Marcella Smart credits her benefits with protecting her health, and our wellness workshops with helping her maintain a healthy weight.

Tereza Ubinas-Valle

A medical issue during her second pregnancy motivated Tereza Ubinas-Valle to commit to making her health a top priority—for herself and her growing family.

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