ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Diabetes – It’s a disease that affects the young and old.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Robins’ health experts recently offered insight into the disease and the resources the base offers to help those impacted by the condition.
Diabetes Mellitus is a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired. There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes.
“Type 1 Diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, results when the pancreas produces little or no insulin,” said Denise Wickley, registered dietitian nutritionist with Health Promotions. “People with Type 1 DM require life-long insulin replacement through injections.”
In Type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin, but the cells are not responding properly to it.
“Type 2 diabetes can be improved through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes, but may require oral medications or insulin,” Wickley said. “Gestational Diabetes is similar to Type 2 Diabetes, but occurs during pregnancy.”
Gestational diabetes may resolve after a baby is born, but mom is at a much higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
“If blood sugar levels are starting to get high, but not in the diabetic range, physicians may also diagnose pre-diabetes,” Wickley said. “It will be especially important to focus on diet and lifestyle to help bring blood sugars down and decrease the risk of getting DM.”
Wickley said Type 1 DM usually affects children and teenagers, although it can develop at any age.
“There are some family history and environmental connections that can increase your risk for Type 1 diabetes, but causes are still unclear,” she said. “For some reason the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.”
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are more defined and include being overweight/obese or having a high percentage of body fat, being physically inactive, having a family history of Type 2 Diabetes, having abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels or high blood pressure, or having polycystic ovary syndrome or previous gestational diabetes. There are also connections to race –including African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans, being at a higher risk, as well as a positive correlation with age.
Paula Pugh, certified diabetes educator at Robins’ Family Practice Clinic, said people with Type 2 diabetes may not have symptoms for years, but as the disease progresses and blood sugar levels rise, symptoms develop.
“People with Type 2 diabetes may have the following signs and symptoms: blurred vision, decreased sensation or numbness in the hands and feet, dry, itchy skin, frequent bladder and vaginal infections, frequent need to urinate, increased thirst and hunger, male erectile dysfunction, slow healing of cuts or sores and fatigue,” Pugh said.
Pugh said if people are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important that people request to be tested for diabetes by their provider, as well as by talking with their family about their health history, as their genetics may influence their risk of diabetes.
In the meantime, Wickley said a few lifestyle changes can help people better manage their health.
“Enjoy a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “Stay active with daily exercise and a healthy, balanced diet comprised of lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Watch portion sizes of foods with high amounts of carbohydrates like pasta, rice, cereals, breads and grains; and avoid foods and beverages with high sugar content such as soda, juice, candy and desserts.”
There are resources available through Health Promotions to help eligible individuals better manage their diabetes as well.
“Health Promotions currently offers a monthly Diabetes Self-Management class, which is perfect for anyone with blood sugar concerns; whether Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, pre-diabetes, or those that are at a higher risk of developing diabetes and would like to make diet and lifestyle changes to help avoid the diagnosis,” Wickley said.
The next Diabetes Self-Management class will be offered Nov. 29 from 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. in the Health Promotions classroom.
“We also offer a Performance Nutrition class every other Thursday morning from 8:00 a.m.-9:30 p.m. which covers metabolism, physical activity and a heart healthy, consistent carbohydrate diet,” Wickley said. “The Performance Nutrition class will be offered the 1st, 15th, and 29th in November. Both of these classes can be scheduled by calling central appointments at 478-327-7850.”
Wickley said Health Promotions will also start a weekly lunchtime nutrition series that will go more in depth on a variety of different nutrition and health related topics starting in November.
“These will be offered every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Health Promotions classroom, with no registration needed,” she said. “We hope people will come spend their lunch with us and learn some great information and tips that they can apply toward making their lifestyles healthier. We will offer the same fundamental Performance Nutrition class on Nov. 6 to cover the basics; then dive into Plant-based Nutrition on Nov. 13; Dining out, Holiday Eating & Special Occasions on Nov. 20; and Quick, Nutritious Meals on a Budget for Nov. 27. The series will continue into December as well, covering Mindfulness & Goal Setting, as well as Healthy Habits: Sleep and Physical Activity.”
To get more information on classes for diabetes management, call Robins Health Promotions at 478-327-8480. For more information on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.
“It can sometimes feel overwhelming to have a diagnosis of diabetes, but I hope through my classes I can show that small and steady lifestyle changes can make a huge impact on health,” Wickley said. “You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods and treats, but we do need to learn how to better balance them into a healthy diet.”