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November is Diabetes Awareness Month — and the Gateway to Potential Holiday Overeating

Jen Healy (left) is public health educator at the Vanderburgh County Health Department focusing on pre-diabetes education. Merritt Bates-Thomas is health education director with Green River District Health Department in Kentucky.
Tim Jagielo
Jen Healy (left) is public health educator at the Vanderburgh County Health Department focusing on pre-diabetes education. Merritt Bates-Thomas is health education director with Green River District Health Department in Kentucky.

Regular Health Departments update is about preventing Type 2 Diabetes, avoiding overeating during the holidays, and a few sobering facts about diabetes spread

November is National Diabetes Awareness month, and both the Vanderburgh County Health Department, and Green River District Health Department  spoke with WNIN’s Tim Jagielo about this important topic — and staying healthy through the holidays  for this month's health departments update. 

“There are different types of diabetes, Type 1 Diabetes can't be prevented. Many times it's diagnosed in young children or younger adults. And it's where the body does not make insulin, the pancreas isn't producing insulin,” said Merritt Bates-Thomas from the Green River District Health Department.

“And then with Type 2 Diabetes — that's the diabetes that can be prevented or delayed — it's when the body produces little or no insulin, and needs stimulation to produce any that it might (need to) produce.”

Jen Healy with the Vanderburgh County Health Department, said these conditions each affect the body differently.

“All of their organs are going to be affected by not having not having insulin, and being able to produce that. Type 2 diabetes is a little bit different … your body's just not able to break down the sugar in your body. And so it can lead to, again, affecting all of your organs. But it's primarily going to, you know, lead to an increase in lack of energy, especially.”

Bates-Thomas said insulin is like the "magic key" the body produces to filter excess sugar from the bloodstream. Without insulin, vascular damage can happen throughout the body.

“It can lead to elevated blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease; it can lead to nephropathy, which is numbness and tingling in your hands and feet over time,” she said. “That numbness and tingling can lead to the nerve damage that makes it hard for people to feel if they've stepped on something, or if there's an injury to the feet, and that then can lead to foot injuries that can lead to amputations.”

She said one in three adult Kentuckians have pre diabetes — and 486,000 are diagnosed with diabetes.

Healy said that African Americans are at higher risk of both types of diabetes.

For folks in pre-diabetes — she has a few suggestions to avoid a type-two diabetes diagnosis.

“Making sure that they are again, eating the adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, getting up to 150 minutes of physical activity, each week — doesn't mean that we have to go out and run like a marathon or anything of that nature. It's just moving our body and making every conscious choice to be active when we can, increasing our heart rate.”

Both Healy and Bates-Thomas mentioned the importance of coping with stress in a healthy way — having a support system and “… letting people know that we are actively trying to be healthy and that we need support and doing that,” Healy said.

Bates-Thomas mentioned the importance of following prescriptions. “If you don't take it as prescribed, you don't know how effectively it's going to work,” she said. “So communicating with your health care team, working with them for the best possible outcome.

And that includes taking medication as its prescribed, and then communicating if there's a side effect you think you're experiencing or something's going on, that might require further evaluation.”

They also both agree that the Holiday season is a challenge for anyone on a weight-loss or diabetes-influenced diet.

“The holidays I think in particular can be a tempting time,” Bates-Thomas said. “Lots of our favorite foods, foods that we associate with memories, and just gathering with family and enjoying things that we may be only get to eat or choose to eat once a year.”

She said it’s possible to “… navigate the holidays successfully, just approaching things with moderation and balancing those choices.”

“I actually had a conversation with someone this morning,” Healy said. “You know, talking with them about their plan for going into Thanksgiving, especially and Christmas right after that …”

“It's not really a time to focus on losing weight, necessarily. It's more about maintaining your weight.”

They both suggest regular light exercise, drinking lots of water to avoid liquid calories and maybe freeze some of those holiday favorites for later, to consume at a moderate pace.

And when you do load up your plate, think about half of it being veggies and fruit followed by grain and lean protein.

If you’re looking for resources both departments have resources online.

The Vanderburgh County Health Department has a Diabetes Prevention program.

The Green River District Health Department has online resources.

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