Diabetes affects more than 20 million Americans and the numbers are rising among both adults and children, according to the American Diabetes Association. While the disease can take a heavy toll on the body, there are critical steps you can take to reduce its impact on your health and life.
"Your quality of life depends on properly managing diabetes," said Theresa Garnero, director of Diabetes Services at Washington Hospital. "There is so much you can do to control this disease and avoid many of the serious and even deadly health risks associated with diabetes."
To help you learn important techniques for managing diabetes, Garnero will facilitate a six-week Group Course in Daily Self-Management beginning Thursday, May 11 at Washington Hospital. The class will be held weekly through June 15, from 7 to 9 p.m., in the Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register -- which is required to attend -- please call (800) 963-7070.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that helps convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy needed for daily life. While the cause is not known, both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise seem to be involved.
Type 1 diabetes results from the body’s failure to produce insulin and accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of the disease. People with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin into their bodies to survive.
The more common form is type 2 diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases. It usually begins as insulin resistance, which occurs when the cells do not use insulin properly. As the need for insulin rises, the pancreas often loses its ability to produce it.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians are at particularly high risk for diabetes and its complications. And while still rare among children, type 2 diabetes is growing among our youth as obesity rises.
Many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose through diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and oral medication. Managing the disease through healthy living is critical for everyone with diabetes.
Monitoring Glucose and Healthy Living Are Key
The self-management class will provide an overview of diabetes as well as specific ways to reduce the complications and health risks associated with the disease. Participants will learn about blood glucose (sugar) monitoring and the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices to keep your diabetes under control.
People with diabetes need to regularly check their blood glucose with a meter. Keeping glucose at your target range can help prevent or delay the start of complications such as nerve, eye, kidney and blood vessel damage related to diabetes.
Diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can also greatly reduce the health risks and improve quality of life. Nearly nine out of 10 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes are overweight, according to the American Diabetes Association.
A registered dietician will teach participants tips for healthy eating and how to customize an eating plan that works for you based on the diabetic exchange list. It’s important to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Moderation is the key. If you can control portion sizes, you can still eat your favorite foods and keep your blood glucose on target.
Physical activity can help improve your health and keep your weight down. An exercise professional will help you design a plan you can stick with. You can even enjoy the benefits of physical activity without going to the gym. Walking, dancing, and working in the yard all count as physical activity, which can help lower your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. It also reduces the risk for heart disease and stroke and helps you feel better physically and mentally.
"It’s really a matter of leading a healthy lifestyle," Garnero said. "It’s all the things we should all be doing -- eating right, moving our bodies, and keeping our weight down. It’s just absolutely critical for people with diabetes."
To register for the six-week Group Course in Daily Self-Management or for more information about other classes offered at Washington Hospital, call (800) 963-7070 or visit www.whhs.com
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