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Registered nurse Doris Peters takes the blood pressure of Dale Dionne of Granville before he goes to work out. Blood pressure tests were part of the free screenings. While having high blood pressure is not a definitive sign of prediabetic or diabetic activity, most diabetics do have cardiac problems, Peters said. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock Top photo: Registered nurse Jean Jones (right) of Illinois Valley Community Hospital, along with her colleague registered nurse Doris Peters were at Illinois Valley YMCA, Peru, on Tuesday morning during a free blood pressure and glucose screening that they conduct every month. In this photo, Jones puts blood drops in the A1c testing machine to test blood glucose levels. Two types of blood glucose tests are offered at the screening, the A1c, which is free and monitors current levels of blood sugar, and the HbA1c which is $20 and measures up to the last three months of blood glucose activity.
PREDIABETES: A WARNING SIGN
With diabetes, your body has trouble turning glucose into energy. Glucose builds up in the blood, starving the body of energy. Prediabetes are the symptoms that can elevate glucose in your blood. If you have prediabetes, you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. You may be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you: - Are overweight. - Exercise less than three times a week. - Had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). - Had a baby with a birth weight of more than 9 pounds. - Are over 45 years old. - Have high blood pressure or cholesterol. - Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander. - Have a parent, brother or sister with diabetes. Source: U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services, healthfinder.gov
Sally Voice sees a lot of patients heading toward diabetes. As diabetes educator at St. Margaret’s Hospital, Spring Valley, Voice helps patients avoid diabetes or manage it so they can live a normal life. Voice is a good fit as diabetes educator. She has Type 1 diabetes. She knows its perils. She’s motivated. In Type 1 diabetes, the body no longer makes insulin because the pancreas has stopped working. Onset usually comes before age 20 and patients usually are thin. Type 2 diabetes is more common. Type 2 diabetics usually carry more weight than average and are not diagnosed until middle age. Voice helps patients avoid prediabetes, the term used for conditions and symptoms of developing Type 2 diabetes. If your fasting blood sugar is more than 100 but less than 126, you have prediabetes, Voice said. The first step is a diet that lowers carbohydrates, she said. The threat of diabetes should help patients meet their goals, she said. “I think we should teach them about this disease,” Voice said. Once you have diabetes you have it for life. “Once you have the diabetes diagnosis you will never get rid of it,” said Marcia Hartwig, education coordinator at Perry Memorial Hospital, Princeton. Prediabetes is “a collection of symptoms that patients may experience prior to the official diabetes diagnosis,” Hartwig said. Over the past 20 years the number of people in Illinois diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled, reaching approximately 800,000 in 2011 and with an additional 500,000 unaware they have the disease, according to Illinois Department of Health. There are 1.9 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year in the United States, Hartwig said, citing 2011 data. The good news is that prediabetes, the early warning signs, is easily diagnosed and reversible in most cases. “Prevention measures are very effective usually if they’re followed,” Hartwig said. Patients often are in denial because the symptoms are tied to lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and smoking. “Patient denial tends to be very strong,” Hartwig said. “If a physician tells a patient that they are prediabetes and they need to make some changes, some people are very proactive (and follow doctors’ recommendations),” she said. “Prediabetes is a warning and if you don’t react to that warning you will be a diabetic.” Prediabetes means you have more than the normal level of glucose in your blood. Prediabetes also puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Prediabetes symptoms include being overweight and exercising less than three times a week. Diet plays a role. It helps to cut back on carbohydrates, Hartwig said. Exercise and activity help prevent diabetes. Thirty minutes a day for at least five days a week is recommended. This also is good for your heart and your brain, Hartwig said. The ALc blood test, which provides average blood sugar level, usually reveals prediabetes, Hartwig said. Pre-diabetes historically has been a concern of middle-age people but today the trend is skewed to younger people because of obesity. “It’s very common for middle-aged people, but with the vast number of children who are obese the age has significantly dropped,” Hartwig said. “You might see them in their teens. It is sad but true that the age has dropped. It is so important for children who are overweight to be proactive and get a handle on it. Parents should jump on board as well.” Voice met two children, ages 13 and 15, with Type 2 diabetes. They were not extremely overweight but were inactive with poor diets, she said. “There’s a distinct increase in the over-40 population,” Voice said. Tina Fitzgerald, registered diabetes educator at Mendota Community Hospital, said the first teen she saw with diabetes was 16 years old. The child was 5-foot-4 and weighed more than 300 pounds. Diabetes progressed quickly because the child never lost weight and never exercised. “We’re starting to see Type 2 diabetes in preschool and middle school and that is all due to being overweight,” she said. This quite often applies to children of parents who have diabetes or are at-risk for diabetes, Fitzgerald said. “They might not be obese,” Voice said. “They might just be a little chunky. Abdominal fat is a very clear indicator of diabetes, unfortunately.” Knowing trends and dispositions toward becoming diabetic is the first step. “If you have a family history of diabetes, that’s number one,” said Tina Fitzgerald, registered diabetes educator at Mendota Community Hospital. In addition to this genetic factor there also are key lifestyle factors. If a person is overweight, over 40 years old and not physically active, then it’s not a matter of if you will get diabetes, but when, Fitzgerald said. “Weight control and exercise, those are the two things that are going to prevent diabetes,” she said. “If they’re in the early stages of Type 2 diabetes they are going to be able to control it much better. Exercise and healthy eating is the same as taking a pill. If you stop that, it’s going to come right back.” In other words, a proper diet and exercise can prevent diabetes and alleviate the symptoms if you already have diabetes, Fitzgerald said. “Even without a family history, the more body fat you have the more insulin you need,” she said. If you suspect you are a candidate for diabetes, see a doctor and get an Alc test. These often are offered in easy-to-attend screenings where you will know the results when you walk out the door. A lot of attention has been paid recently to preventative healthcare. No where is that more apparent and crucial than with diabetes. But Voice is frustrated with insurance coverage for patients. Most insurance won’t pay for diabetes education until the person gets diabetes, she said. “Most people with prediabetes have had it for a long time,” Voice said. “That’s why their prediabetes is caught with a blood glucose test and not symptoms.”
Small steps take you to good news
Small steps to prevent diabetes can lead to big rewards. - Choose foods low in fat, cholesterol and salt which will control your weight, lower your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol. - Being physically active can lower your risk. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity like walking fast or biking. Be as active as you can be. - Watch your weight. Studies show losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes. If you weigh 200 pounds, 7 percent of your body weight is 14 pounds. - Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Starting at age 18, get your blood pressure checked every two years. Women at risk for heart disease and most men need their cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years. - Quit smoking. People who smoke are more likely to get type 2 diabetes. - If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk to your doctor or midwife about gestational diabetes, which can develop during pregnancy.