You probably know some of the signs that can signal the onset of diabetes, such as a pot belly or losing feeling in lower extremities. But there are other signs to watch out for: lethargy, thirst and dry, itchy skin.
Sun City Summerlin residents gathered July 10 for a diabetes seminar sponsored by the Valley Health System. Registered nurse Allyson Hoover facilitated the presentation. She said if your doctor uses the term “pre-diabetic,” that’s likely a gentle way to break the news.
“When your doctor tells you you’re pre-diabetic, well, you can take that as a warning shot,” Hoover said. “Like, you’re either pregnant or you’re not. So, even if your doctor tells you you’re pre-diabetic, I hate to tell you, unless you take steps to reverse it, you’ll have diabetes really soon.”
Her slide presentation showed how the pancreas responds to an influx of sugar into the body by stepping up production of the hormone insulin.
Hoover gave a visual of what happens to the blood when it’s inundated with sugar and insulin. She said to imagine a bowl with one cup of sugar and to add two drops of water and stir.
“Your blood is like molasses,” she said. “… What’s the best way to change that? Drink water.”
She said drinking water would be like adding a gallon of water to that imaginary bowl of sugar.
Another way to help the blood discharge the influx of sugar is to exercise, Hoover advised. This can be as simple as taking a stroll.
“I’m not talking about running a mile or doing sprints,” she said. “Just take a walk.”
Hoover suggested using the plant-based Stevia as a replacement for sugar.
A woman, who asked to be called Sondra, said she was there because her husband was diagnosed with diabetes last year. Since then, they’ve both cut down on sugar.
“I just don’t want to have a problem, so I’m watching my diet, also,” she said. “And I find these (free seminars) so informative. I’m just here for information.”
Marie Vial said someone in her family died of diabetes. To ensure that she doesn’t get it, she said she eats healthily and stays active.
“I do a lot in my yard, that kind of thing,” she said.
Shirley Calderon, 81, was diagnosed with diabetes six years ago.
“I spend time when I’m shopping to look at all the ingredients,” she said. “If I’m allowed so many carbs and fats and sugars a day, then I like to check it to see that I’m within that range. … I never thought I’d get diabetes. I thought if you were over 50 or 60, you couldn’t get diabetes.”
Risk factors include having a family member with diabetes, unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise. Being overweight does not help.
Regular blood tests show only what your current blood sugar levels are like. If you have blood drawn right after a cup of coffee with three packets of sugar, the numbers will be off.
Hoover advised the group to have an A1c blood test. She said blood cells have a life span of 120 days and “collect” sugar around them, so the ones that are dying off will give an overall average of your true blood sugar numbers for the last three months.
Attendees chimed in with questions.
“How about french fries?” a man asked.
Answer: They’re high in saturated fat, and potatoes contain a lot of starch, so try to stay away.
“What about having wine?” another person called out.
“Drink in moderation,” Hoover said. “A 4-ounce glass of red wine at night is not going to kill you.”
“Is chocolate good for you?” a man asked.
Answer: Make it dark and eat it only once in a while.
Likewise, 1 percent milk was preferred over 2 percent, with other dairy-free variations — almond, coconut or rice milk — being healthy options. Hoover said to expect to see cooking in olive oil give way to cooking with coconut oil.
She offered suggestions for managing diabetes, such as asking for a doggie bag when eating out and saving half for a meal the following day. She also suggested that seniors join a walking group to stay motivated and to make changes gradually, not cold turkey. She said if you know you’ll be dining out, think about what you’d like to order ahead of time so your grumbling stomach doesn’t have you ordering unhealthy things on the menu.
For more information about Valley Health System programs, visit valleyhealthsystemlv.com.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.