If you are in a room holding ten Alaskans, the odds are one of you is at very high risk for diabetes, and another already has it. According to the American Diabetes Association in Alaska 68,500 people have diabetes and 96,000 are pre-diabetic, which places them at very high risk of developing the full-blown disease. Even more people may have these conditions, but are unaware of them. As a leading researcher named it in 2010 diabetes is the plague of the 21st century.
A person has diabetes when their body cannot process the food they eat. This can happen for several reasons, including heredity, a diet saturated in refined sugar and carbohydrates, and lack of physical activity. It is especially prevalent in the Latino community due in part to genetics.
In many families, at the end of the workday there is little time for cooking, and it is tempting to have fast food and pre-made meals. Liliana, a pre-diabetic, tells us that her mother and grandmother were diabetics, so she and her children decided to “stop eating what kills you.” After immigrating to the US, their diet began to include a lot of bread, pasta, and ice cream. But when she learned that she was pre-diabetic she decided to exchange the pasta for vegetable stews, and processed juice for raw green smoothies (celery, spinach, cactus leaves and pineapple). Although their schedules make it difficult, Liliana tries to leave time for physical activity with the family such as walking or playing in the park. However, in the winters of Alaska Liliana and her family choose to join the YMCA family gym. There, her children play basketball, she dances zumba and her daughter practices swimming.
An annual blood test can tell you if you are at risk of diabetes, and help avoid irreparable damage, such as blindness, amputations, and kidney disease.
Although diabetes may NOT show symptoms, there are some warning signs:
» An urge to urinate frequently
» Unexplained weight loss
» Extreme thirst
» Skin lesions that take a
long time to heal
» Constant hunger
» Dry and itchy skin
» Tingling feet
» Blurred vision
» Accumulation of fat in the
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the following tests at least once a year:
» A1C test to measure glucose levels
» Cholesterol test
» Complete examination of the feet
» Dental checkup: teeth and gums
» Complete examination of the eyes
» Blood and urine tests to see if you have any problems with your kidneys.
Here are some resources in Anchorage that can help you manage your diabetes:
» Alaska Regional Hospital Health Management Center. The Taking Control program is a series of group education classes offered for seven weeks. The next class will begin on July 26 on Tuesdays from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The next series will begin on September 8 and on Friday from 9:00 to 11:00 am. It requires doctor’s referral and a commitment to attend the complete series. Contact the Health Management Center at 907-264-1383.
» Providence Diabetes & Nutrition Center is offering a two-hour class designed specifically for people with pre-diabetes. This class will provide practical tips and tools to help prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes. The registration fee is $50.00 and pre-registration is required. Contact the Diabetes & Nutrition Center at 907-212-7982.
» Children’s Hospital at Providence has a diabetes support group for parents and guardians of children with diabetes. The group meets the first Tuesday of each month, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. in the Aspen Room in the basement of the main hospital campus. For more information, contact Susan Nash at 907-212 3395.
American Diabetes Association
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Diabetes Education Program
Finally, watch for health fairs. They are a great opportunity to have the blood sugar test performed at low cost.