According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. In 2015, 84.1 million Americans aged 18 and older had prediabetes. For those age 65 and older, the percentage of Americans -- diagnosed and undiagnosed -- is at 25.2 percent, or 12 million seniors.
In a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes. A 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report states that the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the United States increased by 382 percent between 1988 and 2014. Diabetes kills more Americans every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined.
Diabetes is the body’s inability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine.
A diagnosis of diabetes – whether prediabetes, Type II (the most common) or Type 1 is daunting for most. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to more serious medical issues like a stroke, heart attack or even death. It’s not to be taken lightly.
“There are cherries here … they are so good,” said Margaret Rowe, a pharmacist who works at Remington Drug Company. Rowe conducts a free diabetes education class at the Remington Fire Hall twice a month. Along with the cherries, Rowe offered small cheese snacks and crackers as well as bottles of water.
After 33 years at Fauquier Hospital, Rowe decided In March 2017 on a change of career path and went to work at the drug store in Remington. One of the owners, Al Roberts, wanted to expand their clinical services and Rowe, who has volunteered at the Free Clinic, was excited about offering a class on diabetes.
In addition to the general education classes, Rowe also works with individual patients. “I’ve lived with diabetes,” said Rowe, whose first husband had the disease. “It’s always been an interest of mine … it’s an epidemic now.”
On this particular Thursday morning, Rowe welcomed new and returning members to the class. Most took her up on the offer of a mid-morning healthy snack as they settled into her presentation.
Before she started, Rowe reminded those present about the three-pronged approach to managing diabetes: medication, exercise and healthy eating.
The ABC’s of Diabetes
With so much to know and understand about this disease, Rowe’s talk took the class from A-Z, with information ranging from carbohydrate counting and edema to neuropathy, retinopathy and vitamins.
Starting the list was hemoglobin A1C. This blood test, usually done every three months or so, measures average blood glucose. Knowing your numbers is a key measurement in monitoring diabetes and the A1C number is an important one.
“It’s at 6.4 now,” said Sandra, one of Rowe’s regulars. A round of applause congratulated her. “I’ve been pushing as hard as I could,” continued Sandra who at one point had an A1C of 14.
For most people with diabetes, the A1C target is below 7 percent. However, lower levels reduce the risk of complications even more. According to the Diabetes Self-Management website, lowering your A1C level by just one percentage point can reduce your risk for all complications by 30 to 35 percent and cut your risk of a heart attack by 18 percent. Each A1C percentage point above 7 percent doubles your risk of complications.
Rowe encourages checking your daily blood glucose with a home glucose meter between A1C tests to make sure that your management program is working.
What many in the class found extremely informative is how having diabetes can affect other parts of your body. Having regular eye exams is important as well as taking care of your feet, for instance. “Keep them clean and your toenails should be kept short and cut straight across,” said Rowe adding that any blisters, cuts or sores should not be ignored.
Another possible complication of diabetes is neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system that can damage blood vessels and lead to a burning or tingling sensation to legs, feet and fingers.
Being overweight and settling in on the couch rather than a rowing machine or walk in the park only exacerbates diabetes; stress, whether physical, emotional or mental, is another challenge to managing this disease.
“I highly recommend a yoga class,” said Rowe, “it’s healthy and relaxing.”
“I really enjoy these classes,” said Ruth Embrey, another regular, “it’s wonderful that they offer them, people need to know they are here … very worthwhile.”
Classes are free and held at the Remington Fire Hall at 200 E. Marshall St., in Remington. All are welcome.
Currently classes are offered from 10:30 a.m. to noon, twice a month on Thursdays. “If there is enough interest, I would be glad to offer an evening class,” said Rowe, who can be reached at Remington Drug Company at 540-439-3247 or email at Margaret.email@example.com. Visit their website at www.remingtondrug.com,.