Take Care of Your Diabetes

Take Care of Your Diabetes
Submitted by Lisa McCoy, M.S., R.D., L.D.N. Public Health Nutritionist, Washington County Health Department

Almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes. Nationally, diabetes is at its highest level ever with an increase of nearly 50% in the past 10 years. About 17 million Americans have diabetes today. Washington County has a higher rate of diabetes than the state or national average. Many people develop diabetes in their senior years. More than 20% of individuals who are 65 and older have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Although diabetes mellitus is a serious, lifelong condition, you can still live a long and healthy life if you take care of yourself. The most important thing to do - keep your blood sugar in the best range for you. Watching your diet, exercising and taking your medication are the recommended way to control blood sugar levels. Checking your blood sugar at home helps you know what type of control you have over your diabetes and if anything needs to be changed.
Diabetes can affect many parts of your body. High blood sugar levels can affect your eyes, nerves, feet, hands, kidneys and your heart. Taking care of your diabetes means more than just checking blood sugar levels. Diabetics should check their feet regularly at home and also be checked by your doctor during your exams. Diabetics are at higher risk for heart disease and should monitor their blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Having regular eye exams is another important part of taking care of your diabetes.
Pre-diabetes - a new term that is being used in the medical community, gives reference to people before they almost always develop type 2 diabetes. At least 16 million Americans have pre-diabetes and 95% of the individuals who are currently diabetic were considered pre-diabetic before they were diagnosed with diabetes. A pre-diabetic's blood sugar levels are not considered "normal" but they are not high enough to be classified as "diabetic." They are on the road to developing diabetes unless they make changes in their lifestyle. Studies have shown that diabetes can be prevented or delayed in these individuals when lose weight, modify their diet and begin a regular exercise routine.
The National Diabetes Education Program has designed a national awareness campaign, Small Steps. Big Rewards. to target people at risk for type 2 diabetes. Through the campaign, individuals are encouraged to make modest lifestyle changes and lose 5 to 7% of body weight. To learn more visit the website at www.diabetes.org.
Locally there are community resources to help individuals who are pre-diabetic and diabetic. Educational programs and nutrition counseling are offered through the Washington County Health Department (240-313-3300) and the Robinwood Endocrinology and Diabetes Center (301-714-4041). Monthly diabetic support groups are offered through the Washington County Health Department. For seniors, contact the Washington County Commission on Aging Diabetes Case Management at 301-790-0275.