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March is American Diabetes Alert Month
Vilma Lora, Greater Lawrence YWCA

In writing this month’s article, I am wearing a bigger hat than that of Director of the Women’s Services for the YWCA of Greater Lawrence.  As a member of the Lawrence Diabetes Today Coalition and the Mayor’s Health Task Force, I’ve taken on the responsibility of educating our community about the prevalence and impact of Diabetes and bring awareness about National Diabetes Alert Month, with the official call-to-action observed the fourth Tuesday of March. 

 

Diabetes is a serious medical condition affecting 20.8 million people (7.0%) in the United States.  What poses a great public health concern is that, while 14.6 million are aware of their diagnosis, 6.2 million walk around undiagnosed until the disease is advanced and symptoms of complications have risen. 

 

Diabetes contributed to 224,092 deaths in the United States in 2002, according to death certificates data.  However, death tolls may be higher.  Deaths related to Diabetes are believed to be under-reported, as they’re commonly attributed to other chronic conditions, such as heart disease and hypertension, both strongly associated to Diabetes. 

 

Diabetes is a medical condition characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels.  Occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin (Diabetes Type 1), doesn’t produce enough insulin or is unable to utilize the one that it produces (Diabetes Type 2).

 

Insulin is a hormone produced by the liver, responsible for breaking down sugar in the blood and carrying it into the cells to convert it into energy.  Sugar is found in the foods that we consume and constitutes the basic source of fuel for the body. 

 

There are four types of Diabetes—Diabetes Type 1, Diabetes Type 2, Gestational Diabetes, and Pre-Diabetes. 

 

Diabetes Type 1, also known as juvenile-onset diabetes, is commonly diagnosed among children and youth, although the onset of Diabetes can occur at any age.  People diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1 are insulin dependant, critical in regulating glucose levels.  Diabetes Type 1 accounts for 5% to 10% of all diagnosis. 

 

Risk factors associated with Type 1 Diabetes are autoimmune, genetic, or environmental, and thus, the individual doesn’t have control over its development nor can prevent it.   

 

Diabetes Type 2, or adult-onset diabetes, is the most commonly diagnosed in the United States, accounting for 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases.  This diabetes is associated with older age (45 and over), obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity, among others.  According to data from the Center for Disease Control, and other reputable entities, among the most affected by this type of diabetes are the African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians.   

 

What’s alarming is the increased frequency in which Diabetes Type 2 is currently being diagnosed among adolescents, factor easily attributed to increased obesity in our nation, particularly among our children, according to recent studies.  

 

Gestational Diabetes is diagnosed in pregnant women, mostly in African-Americans, Hispanic/Latinas, and American Indians, which may lead to complications, including birth defects.  It is also common among obese women and those with family history of the disease.  Although gestational diabetes generally disappears after pregnancy, it is estimated that women with this condition have a 20% to 50% greater risk of developing diabetes Type 2 in the next 5-10 year.

 

Lastly, Pre-Diabetes, is characterized by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis.  Pre-Diabetes is considered a pre-determinant for Type 2 Diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke, though there are steps a person can take to prevent the onset of this disease.

 

The symptoms associated with Diabetes are frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased appetite, unusual weight loss, fatigue, irritability, and blurry vision.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see your health care provider for further testing.

 

Diabetes is a disease that can lead to serious complications and premature deaths.  Diabetes triples a person’s chances to develop heart disease and stroke.  Also related to diabetes are high blood pressure, blindness, nerve damage, and kidney disease, foot complications, often leading to amputations, skin complications, dental disease, and sexual dysfunction.

 

Although Diabetes in non-curable, it is controllable.  People with Diabetes can lead normal lives if they are successful at maintaining close to normal blood sugar levels, and incorporate exercise and good nutritional habits into their lives.  Diabetics need to consume a diet low in carbohydrates and high in grains, beans, and vegetable in order to help regulate blood glucose levels.

 

Tobacco is detrimental to people with diabetes.  Diabetics who smoke are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than non-diabetics.  Moreover, smoking increases a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as raises sugar in the blood.   

 

Diabetes can be prevented.  Regular exercise, good nutrition, stress management, as well as limited alcohol consumption could be incorporated into our daily lives, as much as regular medical check-ups.  As a first preventive measure, we encourage you to take Diabetes risk test today!  You can find it online on the American Diabetes Association web page.  You may also contact the YWCA of Greater Lawrence Women’s Health Advocacy Services program. 

 

Remember, an ounce of prevention, is your best protection!

 

For information and/or education on diabetes prevention, call the YWCA of Greater Lawrence at (978) 687-0331.  To learn more about YWCA resources, visit www.ywcalawrence.org.   People with diabetes may call the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center REACH 2010 program for education and services on Diabetes maintenance at (978) 686-6029.  Elderly diabetics may call the Lawrence Council Aging at (978) 794-5886 for information and services.

 

Vilma Lora is the Director of Women’s Services at the YWCA of Greater Lawrence, overseeing the Women’s Health Advocacy Services, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Programs. 

 

 

Sources:

  • American Diabetes Association
  • Center for Disease Control—National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2005
  • “Reaching for Wellness: Adult Diabetes Prevention & Wellness Workshop—Train the Trainer Curriculum” by REACH 2010 Latino Health, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center
  • American Heart Association/American Stroke Association: “Learn and Live: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2006 Update”

 

Sources: American Diabetes Association, Center for Disease Control—National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2005, “Reaching for Wellness: Adult Diabetes Prevention & Wellness Workshop—Train the Trainer Curriculum” by REACH 2010 Latino Health, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association: “Learn and Live: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2006 Update”  

Vilma Lora is the Director of Women’s Services at the YWCA of Greater Lawrence, overseeing the Women’s Health Advocacy Services, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Programs.  You can email her at vlora@ywcalawrence.org

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The March, 2006 Edition of the Valley Patriot
The Valley Patriot is a Monthly Publication.
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