Every day people wake up, get out of bed and take the first of many footsteps to start their day. But what many of these people don’t know is that they are carrying something extra with them that could be potentially harmful.
“People walk around with diabetes that don’t even know they have diabetes,” said Dawn Grim, nurse and director of the intensive care unit at Canonsburg General Hospital. “People walk around thinking they’re healthy because you really don’t have symptoms of diabetes unless your sugar becomes extremely high or extremely low.”
To help people become aware before a problem occurs, the American Diabetes Association conducts a yearly Alert Day in March. The goal is to alert the public about the prospect of developing Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, and assessing the risk of each individual through a risk test.
Canonsburg General Hospital rounded up a group of experts available for questions from the public and offered additional informative pamphlets and recipes at its event at the hospital on March 26. In addition to Grim, Anne Veres, director of rehabilitation services and physical therapist, Melissa Thompson, a registered dietician, and Andrea Davis, community health coordinator, were on hand to get the word out about the risks of Type 2 diabetes.
“Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease,” said Grim. “That is why it is so important that we get this risk assessment out.”
The risk test consisted of seven simple questions: age, gender, family history of diabetes, existence of high blood pressure, physical activity level, weight, and for women, if they ever had gestational diabetes. The test is also available online through the American Diabetes Association Facebook page.
Stopping diabetes before it starts is the ultimate success, but if you have already been diagnosed, there are ways to control and even eliminate Type 2 diabetes.
Thompson said that if you are diabetic, you need to eat three balanced meals a day and check your blood sugar. Weight loss can help control sugar better and an increase of fiber in your diet also helps, Thompson said.
Better eating habits go hand in hand with physical activity.
“Combining the nutrition with the exercise is key,” Veres said. “It all goes into weight loss, proper nutrition and increase your activity level. You have to have those components.”
A combination of weight loss, good nutrition and increased activity level will eventually lead to people with Type 2 diabetes being able to stop taking medication.
“Consistent exercise over a period of time has been shown to reduce the need for medication to treat Type 2 diabetes. So if someone wants to get off their medications, that’s a good way to say, ‘If you exercise regularly and eat correctly then you can get off your medicine,’” said Veres.
Increasing your activity level can seem daunting, but it shouldn’t be.
“The recommendation is 150 minutes a week minimum. Five times, 30 minutes a day, but it doesn’t have to be 30 minutes straight,” said Veres. “You can do three, 10-minute bouts or two, 15-minute bouts if you want to walk at your lunch break and then walk after dinner. It can be anything. Gardening, walking your dog, raking leaves – anything just to increase your heart rate a little bit.”
Sandy Louk, a cook at the hospital, found the event to be informative and helpful since she works with patients.
The hospital holds free diabetes education classes for the community three times a year, Community Health Coordinator Andrea Davis said. The next set of classes will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. every Thursday in June.