The die is not cast: It’s possible to delay, prevent diabetes
Vidant Health Communications
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
“Like parent, like child” is an often-used idiom reflecting an individual’s tendency to carry on the traits of prior generations.
In the case of type 2 diabetes, take heart. While it does tend to run in families, lifestyle changes now can help one avoid, or at least delay, its onset. When individuals take ownership of their health and how they live their lives, it can make a powerful difference, said Susie Houston, a Vidant nurse who is a diabetes educator and lifestyle coach.
Type 2 diabetes is typically found in adults but is a growing concern for children as well, she said. It occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or can’t use it properly. The first line of defense is nutrition and exercise. If that doesn’t work, medication can be injected or taken orally.
Diabetes is a serious challenge in eastern North Carolina, known for having an unusually high incidence of chronic, or recurring, disease, including diabetes. Compared to the rest of North Carolina, the death rate from diabetes is 31.4 percent higher, according to the Center for Health Services Research and Development at East Carolina University.
Such statistics are daunting. However, Houston and the team are optimistic that individuals can make small changes in their daily routine that will yield life-saving results. For this reason, she and other diabetes experts with Vidant Wellness Center aim to help those with diabetes start on a track that can make a difference.
The Vidant Diabetes Prevention Program is not designed to be easy. It requires a year-long commitment to participate in a series of one-hour weekly or bi-weekly group sessions, Houston said, but it comes at no cost to participants. The lifestyle knowledge gained from the program could be invaluable in controlling chronic conditions like diabetes.
“If diabetes is not controlled, it can be life-threatening,” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control website. “Long-term implications can result in every system and part of the body, contributing to eye disorders and blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, nerve damage and amputations related to infections and poor wound healing. It can even affect pregnancy and cause birth defects as well.”
These factors are grim but very real, Houston said, yet small efforts can yield important benefits. In the East, many people live in rural areas without a grocery store nearby. One of her go-to dishes is a delicious three-bean salad using products from a local Dollar General, a store chain found in rural areas. Houston said finding clever ways to introduce people to healthy foods they may not have tried before can help ease the transition to a healthier lifestyle.
Weaving exercise into daily life is equally important, Houston said.
“Just because we meet at a gym doesn’t mean you have to join a gym,” she said. “You can park farther from the store and walk, for instance. You can take it outside with a short walk through your neighborhood. These are small things that can make a big difference.” Water activities are another great way to get moving.
Houston said a group dynamic, similar to what is offered in her program, can create bonds. Participants lift up one other, she said. The ideal cohort is 10-15 motivated individuals, she said.
The next Vidant Diabetes Prevention Program begins Oct. 24 and continues on Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:30 pm at Vidant Wellness Center. Participants must:
Have a body-mass index (BMI) of >30
Meet health screening criteria to see if you’re eligible
Be interested, ready and willing to commit to a yearlong wellness program
Registration is a must by visiting tiny.cc/vidantdpp or by calling Houston at 252-847-1436. Learn more at VidantHealth.com/Diabetes. For a free, confidential prediabetes risk test to learn if one is eligible for the program, visit: https://www.CDC.gov/Diabetes/Prevention/Tools-Resources.html.
“If your parents have diabetes, don’t give up,” Houston said. Even if it’s part of your family history, take heart knowing it doesn’t necessarily need to be your fate as well, she said.
NEED TO KNOW
- 30 million people in the United States have diabetes; 25 percent don’t know they have it.
- Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
- See the doctor if you need to urinate often, are very thirsty, lose weight without trying, are very hungry, have blurred vision, have numb of tingling hands or feet, feel very tired, have dry skin or sores that heal slowly.
- A simple blood test can detect prediabetes and diabetes.
Highlighting Your Health is an educational segment courtesy of Vidant Health that appears twice a month in The Daily Reflector. Vidant is a mission-driven, 1,708-bed health system that annually serves a region of more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.