"When you see people and they are pre-diabetic, that can be a very life-changing moment."
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy and impacts millions of Americans.
"We talk generally speaking about type one diabetes and type two diabetes. In the case of type one diabetes, it's a case of the pancreas not producing sufficient amounts of insulin," said Dr. Mahmoud Sharaf, an interventional cardiologist at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's. He sees patients with heart conditions brought on by diabetes. "In the case of type two diabetes. The pancreas is producing the insulin but the tissues are insensitive to the effects of that insulin."
With Type 2 diabetes, there are warning signs that come before a full diagnosis, which alone can be life-altering.
Type 2 diabetes typically develops in adulthood and for those deemed "pre-diabetic", getting to that full diagnosis can be prevented with a few lifestyle changes.
"The biggest thing is is that they can really do something about it, that they can make a big change in their lifestyle, and they can really prevent further complications down the road," Cindy Powell Inman is an advanced registered nurse practitioner with MercyOne Siouxland. She treats several diabetic patients, many of whom live in rural areas, where the nearest Endocrinologist could be several miles away.
"In order to be diagnosed with diabetes, you have to have an A1C of 6.5 or greater," Powell Inman said, "an A1C is a long-range glucose test that looks at your average glucose over three months.
Those who are deemed "pre-diabetic" aren't on a road solely to a diabetes diagnosis, they can make changes to their everyday lives to hopefully prevent that next step.
At the Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA in South Sioux City, they offer a program to help do just that.
"The program is based around lifestyle change. So it's for anyone who's at risk for developing diabetes, with the idea of making some changes now to hopefully not be diagnosed with diabetes in the future." Wellness Director Jacque Perez brought the Diabetes Prevention Program to the Y several years ago. It's a national program through the CDC and has had years of success at the Y and other organizations nationwide," Dawn Welch - Diabetes Prevention Program Coordinator - YMCA
"It becomes like a support group," Dawn Welch is the Program Coordinator for the class and helps guide Siouxlanders through these lifestyle changes. "I'm very hands-off. The participants are very hands-on. So we want them to give each other support. We talk about recipes we talk about okay, what can you use instead of butter or what's working for you. So it's a very supportive, very interactive group."
This program has helped dozens of Siouxlanders learn to navigate life in a pre-diabetic stage, teaching them how to make healthy changes within their everyday lives.
"It's a full lifestyle change and we don't use the word diet. We call it a lifestyle change," Welch said.
For those who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, those lifestyle changes still come into play.
"First off, in the rural area, we have a lot of people that eat a lot of meat and potatoes," Powell Inman said, "they may raise their animals, you know, and raise their vegetables and that type of thing. And so there's some education regarding the types of diet you know, that they might have and decreasing the carbohydrates in the diet and watching those types. of things for rural you know, folks."
Now if you are wondering, how can I determine if I'm pre-diabetic? A blood test is a good place to start.
"I think routine blood checking is very important. You know, I think that you're going to your family doctor, you get the testing, you know what we call the random blood glucose, you know, looking for diabetes. That's very important," Dr. Sharaf said.
And it isn't just older adults that need to be mindful of their blood sugars.
Young people get lulled into a false sense of security. You know, it can't happen to me, but we're finding increasingly it can happen to them," said Dr. Sharaf. "So we see people in their late 20s and early 30s In my practice interventional cardiology, or coming in with acute heart attacks, and meeting stents and needing procedures like that. And part of that is diabetes.
In the end, while diabetes is a very manageable disease, staying on top of your health and making simple lifestyle changes, can make a world of difference.
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