November is National Diabetes Month….Do you know your risk?

21 11 2016






Did you know that 29 million Americans live with Diabetes and another 86 million are at risk? Those numbers are staggering. The cost of diabetes in the US is also staggering. In 2012 the cost of diabetes was estimated at $245 BILLION dollars, of which $176 billion was attributed to direct medical costs, and another $69 billion was in indirect costs like lost workdays, restricted activity, disability, and early death.

Not only is this a national problem, but it is a devastating problem here in West Virginia.  According to CDC, an estimated 255,695 people in WV have Diabetes. That is about 15% of our population. In addition, an estimated 518,000 people here have prediabetes, which means they have blood glucose levels higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes (a fasting blood glucose level of 100-125mg/dl can indicate prediabetes; a level of 126mg/dl or above may indicate a diagnosis of diabetes). Approximately 12,000 people in WV are diagnosed with diabetes every year. This is not a disease that discriminates by age, either. Many of our children are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, often associated with obesity and inactivity (nationally, the trends show prevalence of type 2 diabetes among ages 10-19 rose 30% from 2001 to 2009 ).

Most people who have been diagnosed have type 2 diabetes, which is actually preventable by practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors. Healthy eating, regular physical activity, and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and are also used as first line treatment in combating the disease, along with self-monitoring of blood glucose levels.

If diabetes is left undiagnosed or uncontrolled, it can cause severe health complications such as blindness, neuropathy (nerve damage that can decrease ability to feel pain, heat and cold), poor circulation and wound healing (even eventually leading to amputation), kidney failure, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and gastroparesis (nerve damage causing delayed gastric emptying and digestion).

Diabetes has become so prevalent in our state that it almost seems like a part of normal life for many. People tell me that all of their family members have it, so they expect to have it too. Becoming desensitized to the devastating effects of diabetes can be our worst enemy. So, to raise awareness for National Diabetes Month, I called on my friend and colleague Mallory Mount. Mallory is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a certified diabetes educator in Huntington, WV. She brings awareness, care, and concern to her patients, our weight management program participants, and her campers at Camp Kno-Koma, the Diabetes Camp of WV. She herself was diagnosed with type I diabetes at the age of 13, and knows how important medical nutrition therapy is to managing diabetes.

I asked her to share some of her most important tips to help manage diabetes, whether you have type I or type 2:mallory


  1. Remember you are not alone! If you don’t have a support network, join a diabetes support group. And even if you have a great support group, remember that you can provide support to others living with diabetes!
  2. Start with small changes to diet and exercise. These can lead to big and sustainable results!
  3. When making food choices, balance your plate! Make ½ of your plate non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate whole grain, and ¼ of your plate lean protein. To this, you can add a cup of dairy or dairy substitute (like soy) as your meal plan allows. Thinking of creating a “healthy plate” can make the task less daunting.
  4. Hydrate with WATER! This is the BEST beverage you can provide to your body.
  5. Test your blood sugar as directed by your doctor. If your health care team doesn’t know what’s going on in your body, they can’t help you make good choices.
  6. GET MOVING! Most people think exercise has to be intense to get results. Walking just 10 minutes 3 times a day can help improve blood sugar levels.
  7. Don’t have an all or nothing mind-set. That will set you up for failure.
  8. If you had a bad day, don’t let it drag you down. Yeah, that cake tasted great, but don’t use it as an excuse to continue to indulge.
  9. Practice relaxation techniques (yoga, deep breathing, listening to music). Stress can increase blood sugar levels.

And I will add, keep a record of your food intake along with testing your blood sugars. If your health care team can see what and when you are eating, they may be better able to pinpoint problems that can be easily corrected.

So let’s tackle this epidemic together. Know your risk, and start your journey towards preventing or managing your diabetes TODAY. Let’s work toward a world where adults AND children are diabetes FREE!

If you have risk factors for diabetes, see your doctor today. If you need help with healthy eating and diabetes management, seek out a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area!


Get some great info for National Diabetes Month here:

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~Cathy Shaw, RDN, LD

Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist for the PEIA Weight Management Program