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Let’s prevent diabetes by following healthy habits

Editor's column
By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Statistics about diabetes

·              Prevalence: In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, had diabetes. Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes.

·                 Undiagnosed: Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million were diagnosed and 8.1 million were undiagnosed.

·                 Prevalence in seniors: The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high, at 25.9 percent or 11.2 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).

·                 New cases: 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.

·                 Prediabetes: In 2012, 86 million Americans age 20 and older had prediabetes. This is up from 79 million in 2010.

·                 Deaths: Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, with 69,071 death certificates listing it as the underlying cause of death, and a total of 234,051 death certificates listing diabetes as an underlying or contributing cause of death.

From the American Diabetes Association at 

I like Bonnie Clark’s dedication.

The registered nurse of 34 years and Sacramento City College instructor wants to raise awareness of the increasing risk of diabetes and how it can be successfully managed. So Clark is writing a three-part monthly column series, “Living with diabetes,” which begins today on this page.

Diabetes rates increased a shocking 400-percent internationally in a 25-year period between 1980 and 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We think the increase is because we’re getting older; our lifestyles are busier and we’re less physically active; and then of course, there’s a lot of obesity and our diet,” Clark said.

When a family member and then a nurse colleague were both diagnosed with diabetes two years ago, Clark decided to speak out. Her family member would not take medicine and the colleague was overwhelmed with the changes in her lifestyle.

“They didn’t adapt their lifestyles around diabetes. My colleague was a nurse for 35 years. Her A1C blood test numbers were high. She had to start doing a fingerstick blood sugar test several times a day and there were a lot of things she couldn’t eat,” Clark said. “They both had diet changes, had to keep stress levels down, exercise moderately 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That’s hard for some older people. Not everyone can exercise.”

As her final project in a three-year doctor of nursing practice program at Boise State University, Clark is also giving classes about managing the disease for Lincoln Medical Practice’s diabetes patients from May to October. The project is the pilot for the medical practice to pursue certification as a diabetes education center.

Of Lincoln Medical Practice’s approximately 1,000 patients, 150 of them are diabetic patients.

Through the biweekly classes and the columns, Clark hopes to support those with diabetes and provide education on why it’s so important for patients, and for their loved ones, to remind them to take care of themselves every day.

“If you know someone with diabetes, encourage them and maybe exercise with them, eat a healthy lunch with them,” Clark suggests.

While treatable if caught early, diabetes is not curable and permanent complications are terrifying, including blindness, kidney failure, non-healing wounds and foot ulcers, and feet and leg amputations.

“There are life changes. Quality of life can be affected in a bad way. A lot of people don’t know they have diabetes and then they find out through the diagnoses of complications,” Clark said.

A simple blood test, A1C, looks at red blood cells and how much sugar they have been exposed to in the last 90 days. This simple test that doesn’t require fasting is recommended by the American Diabetes Association for everyone 45 and older.

In the meantime, we can all reduce our chances of developing diabetes by losing weight if we have pounds to spare and making nutritious changes to our diets, such as decreasing our carbohydrates.

“Ideally, our diet needs a limited number of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates go straight to sugar,” Clark recommends. “Proteins are good, as are fresh vegetables and, because of the sugar, a measured amount of fruit.”

Clark has my attention. I already compare food labels every time I’m at the store to make sure I’m buying products with the least sodium, least fat, lower carbohydrates and higher protein. Two weeks ago, I wanted gummi candy but didn’t want the artificial colors so I looked at my organic choices. I was shocked to see the sugar listed as more than 24 grams per serving.

Hearing Clark’s words of advice, I begrudgingly put back the organic gummi bears. It took me one week, going to four other stores, to find an organic brand with 6 grams of sugar per serving.

“According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes should still enjoy eating” Clark said. “They just need to focus on a balanced diet and watch their carbs.”

The extra time spent finding the right snack was worth it. After taking a walk at night, I don’t have to feel guilty eating my gummis.

For those with diabetes, it’s not too late to start adding healthy food options, exercise and medicine that your doctor prescribes. For those without diabetes, it’s not too late to keep it from happening to you. All it takes is following healthy lifestyle choices.