Lifestyle changes can curb diabetes - Catholic Courier

Lifestyle changes can curb diabetes

Six months ago Deacon Raymond Defendorf visited his physician for a routine checkup and came back with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The diagnosis forced Deacon Defendorf to add a few more steps to his daily routine.

“I take my blood sugar every day and I take medicine to control my blood sugar, and that’s where I am right now,” he recently told the Catholic Courier. “I’d never taken anything but an aspirin, and now I take six or eight pills a day.”

Deacon Defendorf, pastoral administrator of St. Mary Parish in Bath, also visits his doctor every six months and has his blood tested every three months so the doctor can see his average blood-sugar level for that time period.

Type 2 diabetes is just one of several various forms of diabetes, which is a group of diseases characterized by high levels of blood glucose. These high levels occur when the body does not properly produce or use insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Type 2 diabetes was previously called adult-onset diabetes and accounts for more than 90 percent of all diagnosed cases of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cells of people with type 2 diabetes do not use insulin properly, and the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce the hormone.

This type of diabetes is often associated with age, obesity, family history of diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism and physical inactivity. Members of several races and ethnicities, including African-Americans, Hispanics, Latino Americans and American Indians have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.

Type 1 diabetes has been referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes and develops when the body’s immune system destroys the only cells in the body that make insulin. People with this type of diabetes, which accounts for between 5 percent and 10 percent of all diagnosed cases, must receive insulin through injections or a pump, according to the CDC.

Rounding out the field of diabetes types is gestational diabetes, which is a form of glucose intolerance experienced by some women during pregnancy, and several other types of diabetes that sometimes result from specific genetic conditions, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections or other illnesses, according to the CDC.

More than 20 million children and adults in the United States — or 7 percent of America’s population — have diabetes, and nearly one-third of these people have not yet been diagnosed and don’t know they have the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.

“We’re pretty much in an epidemic for diabetes,” said Patti Gilchrist, medical coordinator for Health Ministry of the Southern Tier in Corning.

Health Ministry of the Southern Tier is a coalition of volunteer doctors, nurse practitioners and registered nurses who offer free health-care services for the uninsured and underinsured. The health ministry sees a number of diabetic patients on a monthly basis, and also provides education for the community, Gilchrist said.

Local parishes also have rushed to keep up with the increased interest in learning more about diabetes as more and more people are diagnosed with the disease. When St. Patrick Parish in Victor formed its Health and Wellness Ministry in June 2006, ministry organizers surveyed parishioners to find out which health-related topics they were most concerned about, said Ruth Anne Dupre-Trippe, pastoral minister.

“Diabetes seemed to be one of the top four topics,” she said.

In February, the ministry brought several dieticians and health professionals to the parish to talk about the importance of a balanced diet and exercise, which are especially important for people struggling with diabetes. Two years ago, the four Catholic parishes involved in the Webster-Penfield Health Ministry also sponsored an educational program about diabetes, which drew about 20 people from the surrounding community, said Felice Armignacco, one of the ministry’s founders.

“It wasn’t our biggest draw, but the people who came obviously were very interested in the topic and really wanted to be there,” she said.

During that program, health professionals talked about some of the factors — such as obesity and inactivity — that put people at risk for developing the disease, as well as habits people can adopt to help prevent the disease, Armignacco said.

Lifestyle changes are crucial to the prevention and management of diabetes, Gilchrist agreed. People who want to manage their diabetes or try to avoid the disease should watch their sugar intake and eat regular meals that are low in fat and carbohydrates, she said.

“Lifestyle is one of the primary things we coach our patients about. Keep your weight under control, and the best way of doing that is with a well-balanced diet and exercise. Those are the keys to preventing diabetes,” Gilchrist said.

After he was diagnosed, Deacon Defendorf began making the lifestyle changes necessary to keep healthy. He also attended a workshop intended to help the newly diagnosed learn to live with diabetes.

“Education is a critical part. That’s really the most helpful thing,” added Deacon Defendorf, who is on the board of directors for Health Ministry of the Southern Tier.

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