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Stemming the Tide of Diabetes in Our Community

By Heberto M. Sanchez, MPA
Chief Executive Director of the Latino Diabetes Association

The prevalence of diabetes has increased significantly over the past few years and the number of Californians with diabetes is expected to double by 2025. What is even more troubling is that 600,000 million Californians aren't even aware they suffer from this potentially devastating disease.

To make matters worse, we are seeing some of the most dramatic increases in prevalence among those least able to manage the disease properly, such as the poor and those with inadequate access to care.  Unfortunately, whether it is the high health care costs or lack of resources, approximately one-fourth of California adults with diabetes do not take medication for their condition.  If diabetes is not properly maintained, it can result in complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections and amputation.

This is why we started the Latino Diabetes Association: to develop and disseminate culturally relevant information about diabetes, nutrition, exercise and obesity prevention in the Latino, African-American and other high risk communities.  Through programs such as presentations on preventing diabetes and diabetic exams, our hope is to help people live healthy lifestyles. 

Educating people about the different types of diabetes is one of our organization’s key missions.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.  It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its own insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.  People with type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump. Type 1 accounts for 5 percent to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin it makes effectively.  Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 percent to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases.  This used to be diagnosed only in older adults, but now overweight and sedentary lifestyles have made this disease prevalent in children too. 

Type 2 diabetes is somewhat preventable.  While factors such as a family history of diabetes and ethnicity play a role, being obese and not getting enough physical activity can also affect a person’s chances of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

It is important to note that often times, people don’t show symptoms, but symptoms can include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Very dry skin
  • More infections than usual

Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains may accompany some of these symptoms in the abrupt onset of insulin-dependent diabetes, now called type 1 diabetes.

If you suspect that you are at risk for having diabetes, get a screening through a simple blood test.  The screenings are particularly important for those who have other family members with type 2 diabetes, are overweight, weighed more than nine pounds or less than five pounds when they were born or had babies that weighed nine pounds or more at birth, have high blood pressure or have high cholesterol.

The main treatment for early stage diabetes is altering a patient's meal plan and increasing physical activity, such as taking walks regularly. If that doesn't help within a few weeks, physicians can prescribe medications that can help.

By continuing to educate the public about this growing epidemic and by providing them the tools they need, we have a better chance of combating it head on.  For more information about the Latino Diabetes Association, please visit us on the Web at www.lda.org.  To find more information about diabetes classes in LA County, call (323) 837-9869.



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