Prime Time Living - Page 6 - Staying Healthy With Diabetes

Prime Time Living
- Page 6
Staying Healthy With Diabetes
Knowledge is power with this disease

By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

Until he was in his 40s, Kurt Schiller never really thought about his weight or his rather sedentary lifestyle; then he got the results of his blood tests and found out he was pre-diabetic. It was a huge wake-up call.

He started eating salads every day for lunch and got a dog. Those long walks two or three times a day along with the change in diet helped him lose over 50 pounds. He still got diabetes in his late 60s, but he manages it without medications.

One in four people over 65 has diabetes. So, once you know age increases your chances to develop diabetes, you have to wonder: What more is life going to throw at me? But there are lots of ways we can prevent this from happening. And when we look at these options, when we incorporate them into how we live day by day, they will help us in other areas of our health as well.

Angela Ginn-Meadow, senior diabetes education coordinator at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology at UMMC Midtown Campus, recommends getting screened annually. “When you are screened early, even if you learn you have pre-diabetes, you understand what path you’re on. Many people can walk around for a long time without knowing they have diabetes, which means you don’t make the necessary changes as early as possible.”

Lynne J. Brecker, R.N., B.S.N., certified diabetes educator at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, concurs. “Something as simple as improving your diet, eating more fruits and vegetables, limiting your intake of carbs, and watching your portion control, can help prevent getting diabetes. Once you have it, you’ll always have it.”

There is a direct correlation between the obesity epidemic in this country and diabetes, causing this increase in those diagnosed with the illness. You still have to eat. The earlier you modify your lifestyle, though, the better off you are. Maybe that’s the problem.

“Having diabetes can get in the way of living your life,” says Ginn-Meadow. “My father was on insulin, so he had to time his injection based on when he was going to eat. If you’re not comfortable living with this, it can cramp your style and put pressure on you when you go out, because you have to plan everything around your food intake.”

Many of her younger clients don’t tell friends or family that they have diabetes. They just want to fit in, not seem different. Her goal is to help her patients make the lifestyle changes to maintain their quality of life, but it often gets in the way.

Ginn-Meadow explains the problem. “Picture someone going to a wedding. Without diabetes, you go and have a good time. But with diabetes, you’re always looking at the time, managing your blood sugar level, thinking about when the meal will be served and compensating for having a piece of the wedding cake hours later. This is true when you go to the movies, or even out with friends. You’re always being careful.”

Diabetes is a progressive disease; it gets worse as you age. Brecker stresses using the plate method even if you don’t have it: one-fourth protein, one-fourth carbohydrates and half non-starchy vegetables. She also endorses eliminating snacks and drinking water instead of sodas or other liquids with sugar. “Water intake is healthy. The rest doubles the number of carbs, which increases your blood sugar. Pay attention to your body, what triggers make you hungry.”

Chocolate, says Brecker, is not the worst thing for diabetes. It can be worked into your meal planning. Most Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE) will meet you halfway as you change your behavior and make what’s important to you possible. After all, you’re the one who has to live with diabetes.

Ginn-Meadow’s goal is to help patients make the lifestyle changes to maintain their quality of life. She helps people with monitoring, understanding the medications and scheduling, physical goals, and tries to ensure their emotional well-being.

“Knowing is empowering,” she stresses. “You must advocate for yourself. The more you know about your health, the more you can do to prevent complications. Don’t stick your head in the sand.”

There are many places that offer free screening for diabetes. One is the Community Health Education Center (CHEC) at the UMMC Midtown Campus. No appointment is necessary. For more information, call 443-552-CHEC (2432). Medicare also covers testing. Most local hospitals have options to be screened, and many offer classes on diabetes education.

As actor Anthony Hopkins put it, “Getting old ain’t for the faint of heart.” We spend much of our time staving off the effects of growing older, so we can be healthy as long as possible. Doing all you can to prevent diabetes is a smart strategy. •