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Smartphone app helps South Buffalo woman manage diabetes

The 1990s were rough for Betsy Manning. Her mother died early in the decade, at age 47, when she was struck by a car while crossing Elmwood Avenue. A heart attack felled her father six years later, at age 58.

Manning's story may ring familiar to many diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who have weathered tragedy. The body she had as a high school athlete changed as she took comfort in food and settled into a home and work life that only sporadically included exercise and a healthy diet.

She was diagnosed with diabetes the year her father died — and he, too, had diabetes.

The Metformin her doctor prescribed failed to control Manning's blood sugar, so she started to take insulin. Then, after a car crash last year, she suffered a heart attack, needed four stents to boost her cardiovascular system, and was laid up for three months after complications during an angiogram.

"It wasn't until I had a heart attack myself and ended up spending eight days in the hospital that things changed," said Manning, 54, of South Buffalo. "I thought, 'I've got to really take a look at what I'm doing.' "

WNY insurer launches new interactive app for those with diabetes

Then Manning caught a break. During her convalescence, Independent Health emailed her and other members to tell them a new, free app called Brook was available to help better manage Type 2 diabetes by helping track blood glucose, sleep, medications, meals and activity.

The app is now available to anyone with prediabetes or diabetes — and a smartphone — at the website Independent Health members are encouraged to sign on using their insurance ID.

Q: Are there any foods you've cut out of your diet since using the Brook app?

I try not to eat a lot of processed foods. I hardly ever eat white bread. I've also started to get back into exercising. I do some walking and weight training. I want to keep my stents clear, so I do whatever I can. I take my [blood-thinning] medication when I'm supposed to. I like the app very much. I think anybody can get value from it. It really makes you want to stay on track. It took a while, but I feel a lot better than I did and I'm glad for that.

Q: What features have made the most difference?

I can log in what I eat, and even take a picture. Every week, they'll also text me and say something like, "We saw that you had some good blood sugars and logged in some meals, so how are you doing with that?" I like that. I've been in a grocery store reading a label that I didn't understand and asked, "Is this good?" I've gotten an answer back within 10 minutes.

It gives you meal ideas. You can spend time with a dietitian who checks with you regularly. That's when I learned carb-counting. I started doing pretty well with that, and it's helped me a lot. The app sent me ideas on cooking vegetables, what seasonings would be good. I also put my blood sugar readings into the app. It's nice to see when I can stay in the range of 80 to 180 [mg/dl, the better range; it had been as high as 270 mg/dl before that]. Now I’m on Humolog, a fast-acting insulin, as needed. … My ultimate goal is to get off of insulin. I take things one day at a time.


Twitter: @ScottBScanlon

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