Diabetes Alert Day sounds alarm about risk factors for disease

Diabetes Alert Day sounds alarm about risk factors for disease

Parkland hosting free diabetes community seminar in Spanish

Dallas County resident Stephanie Freeney, 53, was surprised when she was diagnosed with diabetes last fall. “I hadn’t felt well for about six months. I knew something wasn’t right with my body. When I went to the Parkland ER because of back pain I was having, they found out my blood sugar levels were dangerously high.”

Freeney has a family history of diabetes, but she hadn’t talked to relatives about a mysterious rash or other symptoms that she later learned were caused by the disease.

“I just didn’t tell anyone about my health problems, but after my diagnosis I compared notes with family members and they said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me? I’ve had that problem, too.’”

More than 11 percent of Dallas County residents have type 2 diabetes, according to experts at Parkland Health & Hospital System. “Diabetes is a serious health issue in our area. We are working every day in our community to alert and educate people about the risks associated with diabetes, because the health consequences can be severe,” said Luigi Meneghini, MD, Executive Medical Director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland and Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

March 27 is designated as National Diabetes Alert Day, created by the American Diabetes Association to help “wake up” the public about the potentially life-threatening disease that has become widespread. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

Kellie Rodriguez, MSN, MBA, CDE, Director, Global Diabetes Program, stated, “At least 25 percent of people with diabetes do not know they have the condition, so diabetes education and screening are vital. It’s also alarming that about 89 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are not high enough to be classified as diabetes, but are elevated above normal levels. Persons with prediabetes have a 50 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes if they don’t make significant lifestyle changes, such as diet and physical activity.”

Parkland will host a Spanish Diabetes Community Conference on Saturday, April 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nash-Davis Recreation Center, 3710 N. Hampton Road, Dallas, 75212. Parkland experts will share helpful information about living with diabetes. The event is free and open to the public. Topics will be presented in Spanish.

Parkland also created a new website in both English and Spanish at www.parklanddiabetes.com, with easy-to-access information about preventing and living with diabetes, including risk factors, nutrition, exercise, medication, support groups, a diabetes blog and more.

Freeney’s diabetes diagnosis was a loud wake-up call to make lifestyle changes to improve her health, she said. “My primary care doctor referred me to diabetes education classes at Parkland. They really helped me understand diabetes, because even though I have a long line of relatives who’ve had the disease, I didn’t know much about my risk. I’ve learned that I can prevent many problems by changing my diet and exercise habits. I think I’m lucky that I dodged a big bullet.”

A typical Southerner, Freeney said she always enjoyed comfort food. The diabetes education class she attended, taught by Parkland registered dietitian Sharon Cox, MS, RD, LD, CDE, opened her eyes to new ways of enjoying healthier food. “It was very informative,” she said.

Cox stresses that portion control is one of the most important changes people can make to reduce their risk of diabetes and maintain a healthy weight. “You don’t have to give up eating everything you like, but you do need to learn to control the quantity of food you’re taking in along with eating healthier types of foods.”

“I make better choices now and eat a lot more vegetables than I used to,” Freeney said. “I was overindulging and filling my plate with big portions. Now I take small portions. I don’t wait for my stomach to tell me ‘enough.’ I know I don’t need all that food.”

Exercise is also helping. “I walk for at least 30 to 45 minutes every day before I go to work,” she said. “I’m not at my ideal weight yet but I’m very comfortable with my progress.” In addition to losing weight, Freeney said she feels much healthier. She hopes she can reverse some of the damage done to her body and eventually not require medication to treat her diabetes.

“I learned you can prevent diabetes and you can treat it. You don’t have to accept poor health. There are things you can do to be healthier. It’s important to listen to your body,” Freeney advised. “It tells you a lot. Don’t disregard what’s going on – get it checked, let your doctor know exactly what you’re feeling. Make a list to take with you to your doctor and don’t be afraid to discuss things.”

The Global Diabetes Program at Parkland is helping to drive initiatives for a comprehensive approach to improve access to clinical care and more closely connect patients to care in their local communities.

For more information about Parkland services visit www.parklandhospital.com