By Kristen Miller
“Health is great and we don’t think a lot about it until we don’t have it any more,” said certified diabetes educator Holly Oestreich with Hutchinson Area Healthcare.
The mission behind Diabetes Awareness Month and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is to raise awareness of “this ever-growing disease . . . and to focus the nation’s attention on the issues surrounding diabetes and the many people who are impacted by the disease.”
Nearly 26 million children and adults in the US have diabetes, while another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to ADA statistics.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder when the pancreas doesn’t make any insulin and has, therefore, become insulin dependent, according to Oestreich.
Type 2 diabetes can develop when the pancreas isn’t making enough insulin for the body, or has become insulin-resistant, which can be caused by medications, typically steroids. Hormones, stress, eating habits, and lifestyle are also factors, Oestreich explained.
People who are overweight tend be more at risk because the more fat cells a person has, the more insulin one needs.
It can also come down to the pancreas.
“Some people are blessed with good pancreases, and others aren’t,” Oestreich commented.
At the school level, Dassel-Cokato nurse Annette Bohnsack said she sees a lot more type 1 diabetes, but type 2 is becoming more prevalent among school-age youth.
For those with diabetes, it’s about helping them choose healthy foods to eat and ways to manage the lifelong disease.
In 2005, when Oestreich became a diabetes educator, the outlook for type 2 diabetes really hit home for her. With a 5-year-old of her own, the ADA predicted that one out of three children born in 2000 would develop diabetes. For those at higher risk of diabetes, particularly Asians, African Americans, and Hispanics, that number became one in two.
In America today, people have grown accustomed to convenient, processed foods to accommodate busy, stressful lives, Oestreich explained.
Exercise is also a difficult habit to begin, she noted.
Pre-diabetes education classes, such as the ones offered to the community four times a year at Hutchinson Area Health Care, can help people learn how they can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
Educators will explain what goes on in the body at a cellular level and what makes a person at risk, along with what they can do to decrease that risk.
This can be motivating them to be more active and creating a healthier diet.
Oestreich uses the MyPlate, developed by the US Department of Agriculture, which has replaced the food pyramid (see the diagram). More fruit and vegetables and less carbohydrates are key, she noted.
“Pop is a huge issue today,” Oestreich said, adding the sugar content is very high and a better option is milk or water.
For more information on prediabetes classes, see the Dassel Medical Center for a brochure or call (320) 484-4575.
Ways to eat healthy
Eat healthy by building a better plate. The American Diabetes Association gives these suggestions:
• Use a grocery list when shopping for food to help you choose more fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
• Instead of stressing out about the foods you’re trying not to eat, focus on the foods you need to eat more. See the MyPlate diagram.
• Buy leaner meats (such as chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of pork or beef such as sirloin or chuck roast) and low-fat dairy products (like low-fat or skim milk and yogurt).
• Buy whole grain breads and cereals.
• Save money by buying less soda, sweets, and chips, or other snack foods.
• Remember that special “dietetic” or “diabetic” foods often cost extra money and may not be much healthier than simply following the suggestions given here.
In order to eat healthy, it’s important to shop smart, as well.
The ADA gives these suggestions:
• Set aside some time to plan your weekly meals. You might want to start with just a few days. It may seem like a hassle at first, but having a plan (and writing your grocery list with it in mind) can save you time, stress, and a lot of extra trips to the store.
• Stock your pantry with plenty of healthy basics, including brown rice, whole grain pasta, crackers and cereals.
• Remember that fresh fruits and vegetables are usually healthier than canned or frozen, but it is better to have canned or frozen fruits or vegetables than none at all!
• When you run out, put the items on your grocery list so you’ll always have them on hand.
• Shop only from your grocery list.
• Avoid aisles that contain foods high in calories but low in vitamins and minerals such as candy, cookies, chips and sodas. Also avoid buying items promoted at the front of the store, on the “end-cap” displays at the end of each aisle, or at the cash register. These foods are usually low in nutrition.
• Don’t shop when you are hungry and might be tempted by a less healthy food.
Other suggestions for eating smart, inlude:
• Cut down on the sodium in canned vegetables, by draining and rinsing them before heating in fresh water. You can do the same to cut down on added sugar in canned fruits or better yet, buy them packed in juice (not syrup).
• Start meals with a salad, or a broth or tomato-based soup with lots of vegetables. This helps you eat more good-for-you veggies while filling you up before you get to the higher fat and calorie courses.
• Make healthy snack foods easy to find in your kitchen. For example, when you get home from work or school, put some fresh carrots, grapes, or pretzels out on the counter instead of a bag of chips.
• In restaurants, ask if meats can be grilled rather than fried, and request sauces and dressings on the side. Remember to choose fruit, salad, or other vegetables as side items, rather than French fries. Order a salad or soup to start and then share an entrée. Save money, and lots of calories, by skipping dessert.
In addition to eating healthy, the American Diabetes Association recommends staying active, quitting smoke, and losing weight, if needed, for lowering one’s risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.