Diabetes has been part of Danny Rourke’s life since he was 12 years old.
It was at that age that the onset of the chronic illness began to make him sick, and ultimately sent him into a coma. He spent five weeks in the hospital, after which he was prescribed a lifetime of glucose level checks and insulin shots. But he never let his chronic illness slow him down.
Nearly 30 years later, Rourke is a probation officer in Lowell, the Vice Chairman of the Lowell City Council and a coach in several sports. Today, he says his diabetes is managed better than it ever has been since adding another step to his management regimen – regular exercise.
At SLS Fitness in Lowell, he does four half-hour fitness classes each week. He fits it into his life by working out twice a week with his wife April, and fitting other workouts in during a break in his workday. And it’s paying off.
“A half hour of high intensity training sets my blood sugar for the whole day and night,” Rourke says. “One of these workouts can last up to 48 hours.”
Circle Health has a growing partnership with SLS Fitness and its owner, renowned trainer Sherri Sarrouf, to bring more health and wellness programs to members of the community. These programs are offered to many different populations, from kids and pregnant women to patients with Parkinson’s disease.
“Everyone needs a place to go move, not just the everyday person who wants to get fit,” Sherri Sarrouf says. “We teach people that no matter what, if you have a health challenge, we’ll help you.”
For Rourke, who has Type 1 diabetes, which is hereditary and not curable, blood sugar spikes or drops can lead to serious health complications, even death. More than 80 percent of diabetes patients have Type 2, which is often curable with healthy lifestyle changes.
Rourke manages his diabetes with the help of Dr. Hayward Zwerling, an endocrinologist based in North Chelmsford.
Recently Rourke was fitted with a glucose monitor that checks his insulin levels every 30 seconds. His physician says Rourke’s lifestyle will serve him well in maintaining his levels.
“Exercise and diet have to be the cornerstone of any diabetes management program,” Zwerling says. “Those who exercise regularly and eat properly are likely to require less medications and suffer less complications.”
For Rourke, being able to manage his diabetes and get his workouts in, all close to home, makes a huge difference in his life.
“We live right down the street from Lowell General,” Rourke says. “Our kids were born there. I have my primary care and specialists there. I’m a perfect example – you can get it all in one spot.”