Dealing with diabetes

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Support group provides opportunity to learn, share

By John Barnhart

Betty Stafford has diabetes and controlling her blood sugar has been a struggle. A new support group has helped her learn what foods to eat and how to prepare them.

    That’s the kind of help a diabetes support group in the Bedford area provides. The group was organized as a collaborative effort between Bedford Memorial Hospital and the Bedford Parish Nurse Ministry.

    The support group was started with a Bedford Community Health Foundation grant, according to Anita Lowe, Bedford Memorial’s community health service adviser. The support group is for people who have diabetes and their family members.

    “Diabetes is a very serious thing,” commented Stafford, a support group member. She needed advice on what to do about her blood sugar levels and the support group has helped. The advice  has been valuable for her as eating properly is important.

    According to Lowe, one of the services the support group offers is to allow diabetics to share information on how to keep their blood sugar under control.

    Pam Willoughby, a nurse who oversees  the Parish Nurse program in the Bedford area, said that blood sugar that is not under control can result in kidney problems, nerve problems or blindness.

    “That’s why we need the support group,” commented Lowe.

    Stafford said foot care is also important for diabetics. They have to be careful with cuts and sores because they don’t heal well and become easily infected. She said that she didn’t realize how important it was to have her feet checked until she got involved with the group.

    The support group’s value is more than a matter of learning new information. Lowe said that the group keeps facts that diabetics already know fresh on their minds.

    According to material provided by the support group, diabetes is an illness in which the body is not producing insulin (Type 1) or is not responding to the insulin that it is making (Type 2). Type 1 usually sets in before the age of 40 while Type 2 usually sets in after 40.

    All food is eventually broken down into glucose which serves as the body’s main energy source. Insulin is needed to move the glucose from the blood to the cells where it is used. Diabetics end up with high glucose levels in their blood which can cause damage in many parts of the body. It’s the fourth leading cause of death in the U. S., the leading cause of blindness and a major cause of non-traumatic amputations of the lower extremities.

    Risk factors for diabetes include a family history of diabetes. Risk factors for Type 2 include being over 45, being overweight and having an inactive lifestyle. For women, having given birth to a baby who weighs more than 9 pounds is also a risk factor.

    People with Type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin injections. Treatment for Type 2 may range from diet and exercise, to diabetic pills to insulin injections. In all cases, diabetics have to pay close attention to what they eat.

    The support group meets monthly with a different program at each meeting with expert speakers and diabetic-friendly refreshments. The Health Foundation grant helps support free screening for the group. The meetings take place the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Hospital’s auditorium. For more information, call (540) 587-3308.