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Diabetes doesn't have to keep you from enjoying life

​​Diabetes Group - SSM Health St. Francis

How many people do you know with diabetes? Unless you've asked, chances are you wouldn't even know the people around you that have it. That's because people with diabetes are living healthier lives these days, thanks to new medications and lifestyle changes, which help to keep the disease in check.

Still when you look at the numbers affected it's pretty staggering – 25.8 million alone in the U.S. – or about 8.3​%of the population have the disease. For Nodaway County, the rate is even higher at 10%. Another 79 million people are estimated to have prediabetes. ​

So, can you do anything to reduce your risk? Experts say in some cases, yes.

Lifestyle Changes Make a Big Difference​

Eating right, getting plenty of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are good lifestyle goals for all of us. And, it turns out these are the same things that minimize your risk of type 2 diabetes.

"Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes," says Deb Hull, diabetes educator at SSM Health St. Francis Hospital. "About 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.  Traditionally, it was only seen in older adults, but unfortunately, we are now seeing type 2 diabetes in children as well.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when there's insulin resistance in the body as well as a decrease in insulin production. Risk factors include being overweight, leading a sedentary lifestyle, having high blood pressure, as well as elevated lipid levels. "By making improvements in these areas, you are lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes" says Hull.

People at risk for developing type 2 diabetes typically have what's called prediabetes and may exhibit signs of lethargy, frequent urination, blurry vision and are extra thirsty.  However, there may be no symptoms.

"People with prediabetes can be in control of how fast or even if they develop type 2 diabetes at all," says Hull. "If your doctor says you have prediabetes it's important to choose healthy foods, cut back on portions, get rid of excess fats and sweets in your diet, add activity into your daily regimen and get your weight normal."

"I see folks approach prediabetes with a lack-luster attitude, almost as if they've received a free-pass," Hull continues "Quite the contrary, prediabetes means that diabetes is coming like a freight train, and you need to make changes now to stop that train.  If you wait until your diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you have already lost about 50% of your ability to produce insulin.  This can create an uphill battle in the treatment of this disease.  People just don't realize the power they have to avoid diabetes." St. Francis offers a LiveWell Class, which is a 2-hour class that helps people improve their health through lifestyle changes.

Hull has seen patients who've made lifestyle changes that help delay and prevent the onset of the disease. She's also seen people with type 2 diabetes, who, through diet, exercise and weight loss have lowered or removed their need for medication.

The less common form of diabetes is type 1. This type is most often diagnosed in children and young adults and is a condition where the body does not produce insulin on its own. Because of that, people with type 1 diabetes need to receive external sources of insulin to survive.

Risks are Significant if Diabetes Left Uncontrolled

Diabetes symptoms can often be mistaken for other problems, such as aging. Left unchecked, though, the risks of complications are significant and even deadly!

"Diabetes is not something to take lightly," says Hull. "There are lots of risks if you don't control the disease. You can get blood vessel damage leading to micro or macro vascular problems. It's one of the leading causes of stroke."

And, it's also one of the leading causes of blindness, heart disease, kidney problems, nerve damage and circulation problems in the lower extremities. Those risks also make it the leading cause of lower extremity amputation by a non-traumatic injury.

Good News

The good news is that people with diabetes can live a long healthy life if they keep their diabetes under control.  A person's choices in activity and food play a huge role in their ability to manage diabetes.  This is why St. Francis offers diabetes and nutrition education classes. "You don't have to be a victim of diabetes. It is controllable, but that control hinges on the patients' understanding of their disease," says Hull. 

For more information on diabetes prevention and diabetes education classes, call Hull at 660-562-7966.