Diabetes is becoming more prevalent each year. If not properly managed, it can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness or nervous system disease. The costs associated with diabetes—both direct and indirect, such as disability, work loss and premature mortality—run in the billions of dollars.
With diabetes, our bodies no longer allow us to cheat on following a healthy diet. In fact, maintaining a healthy weight, eating right, exercising and not smoking can significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Patients diagnosed with the disease can control it through education, diet, exercise, medication and support from family, friends and their health care team.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes—18.8 million have been diagnosed and 7 million are undiagnosed. Another 79 million people have prediabetes, meaning their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.
“It is very important to get a yearly exam that includes a blood glucose test,” says Rowe Hudson, RD, CDE, Program Director of Lee Health Solutions. “The results of that test can determine if a patient has diabetes or prediabetes. Having the test done yearly provides opportunities to make lifestyle changes to help ward off or control the disease.”
Once a person has been diagnosed with diabetes, he or she is encouraged to contact Lee Health Solutions. We offer self-management education classes in the morning, afternoon or evening on all four Lee Memorial Health System hospital campuses—including Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center and Lee Memorial Hospital. “With diabetes, most of the care falls on the patient,” Rowe explains. “An educated patient has a much better chance of controlling the diabetes. We teach people how to manage their disease by covering topics such as diet, medications, exercise and avoiding complications. Participants are also given a blood glucose meter and instructed on how to test their blood sugar.”
Tom Igel, a 77-year-old Fort Myers resident, was diagnosed with diabetes in 1997. He was living in Michigan at the time and took a diabetes self-management class at a hospital in Detroit. “Looking back, I think I was prediabetic for a long time but I was in denial when I got the diagnosis,” Tom shares. “I took the class so I would know how to take care of myself and I quickly learned to always follow the doctor’s orders.”
Years later, Tom inquired about taking another diabetes class. Now a seasonal resident, his primary care physician referred him to the Lee Health Solutions diabetes self-management class. “Things change and I want to be up-to-date on treatment options,” Tom says. “I’ve changed medicines a few times, I’ve lost weight and I try to exercise. Thankfully, I don’t have glaucoma or trouble with my eyes, no kidney problems and a little neuropathy, but nothing advanced. My diabetes is under control, but my goal is to keep working and try to get off the medication. I think it’s possible—anything is possible—and it’s nice to know that I have the support of my doctor and the diabetes care team at Lee Health Solutions should I need them.”
It is important to find out if you are at risk for developing diabetes. Rowe recommends visiting StopDiabetes.com to take the diabetes risk test to answer questions about age, weight, lifestyle and family history. Encourage friends and family to do the same.
Rowe and his team can help educate you and give you the tools to manage and control diabetes. Call Lee Health Solutions at 239-424-3120 to schedule a consultation. Get checked, know your risk and take care of yourself.
President, Lee Memorial Health System