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Dealing with diabetes

Choices about diet, exercise crucial to battling disease

November 21, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

When it comes to living with diabetes, it seems each individual must figure out what sort of lifestyle choices work best for them.

Roseann Doran, a Nutrition and Health educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, said this was highlighted during a recent class, titled Cooking with Diabetes, held at the Extension's offices in Johnstown.

One activity in the class involved taking a quiz. One true/false question said, "People with diabetes should not eat snacks, because snacking makes you gain weight and makes the blood glucose too high."

Article Photos

Roseann Doran, a Nutrition and Health educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, points to a chart Tuesday at the Extension office in Johnstown intended to help people visualize how big a meal should be. It was used during a recent class at the Extension’s offices in Johnstown, called Cooking with Diabetes.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

Doran said while the correct answer was false, one woman in the group pointed out she was not supposed to eat snacks because of the medication she had to take.

"It's not cut and dry and not the same for every individual," Doran said.

Understanding how to live with diabetes is going to be more important for everyone in the future, as the number of people with the disease is expected to grow.

According to the American Diabetes Association website - - 23.6 million children and adults in the United States had diabetes in 2007, the most recent year numbers where available.

In these numbers, there are actually two kinds of diabetes, type 1 and type 2.

Different diabetes

According to the website, Type 2 diabetes is the disease's most common form. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and many more are unaware they are at a high risk of developing it.

For people with Type 2 diabetes, either their body does not produce enough insulin or their cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is needed for the body to use glucose for energy, the site said. "When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells," the site said. "When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications."

Children and young adults usually are the victims of Type 1 diabetes, the site said. The disease was previously called juvenile diabetes for that reason. Only 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1, the site said.

For people with Type 1 diabetes, their problem is their body does not produce insulin, the site said.

The prevalence of diabetes in the United States is likely to increase for several reasons, according to the website for the National Diabetes Education program -

A large segment of the population is aging. Also, minorities with an increased risk of developing diabetes - such as Hispanics - make up the fastest-growing segment of the population. Americans in general are also increasingly overweight and sedentary, the site said.

"According to recent estimates from the CDC, diabetes will affect one in three people born in 2000 in the United States," the site said. "The CDC also projects the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the United States will increase 165 percent by 2050."

Doran said the Cooking with Diabetes two-session program provided plenty of hand-on learning activities to help people learn how to plan healthy snacks and meals.

She said the growing number of people with diabetes was part of the reason for having the class. Attendees learned about how to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and what physical activities they may be able to do to stay healthy.

Carbohydrates and fat may be appropriate in such diet, she said, but it is important for people not to take in too many.

"Really, the recommended diet for people with diabetes is what we all should be doing," Doran said. "It is a healthy, balanced diet."

Doran emphasized that for young or old people with diabetes, having a plan that suits them is important.

"It is very individual," she said.

Nan Ransom, a registered dietician with and certified diabetes educator who works for St. Mary's Hospital through its diabetes center at its Amsterdam Memorial campus, helped formulate some of the activities for the class.

While the class focused on very general advice for people with diabetes, she said, individual care is crucial for people with the disease. She noted the center offers a variety of ways to help people battling diabetes.

"The person themselves can make or break their success [fighting diabetes]," she said.

While the number of seniors with diabetes is growing, Ransom noted the prevalence of diabetes among children has reached surprising levels.

She said for seniors, handling their diabetes involves a number of things, including looking at everything they eat.

"It's not just a matter of putting Sweet N Low in your coffee," she said.

Kathie Rohrs, a certified diabetes educator who runs the diabetes support group at Nathan Littauer Hospital, said the mindset of the medical community has changed somewhat from 30 years ago. Back then, people were told to avoid eating certain things. Now, she said, people have more freedom to individualize their meal plans to make sure what they consume overall is healthy.

"They don't have to give up everything," she said.

Rohrs said the best thing people can do to avoid getting diabetes is trying to maintain a healthy weight.

For people with diabetes - whatever their age - they should find an exercise routine that works for them.

Rohrs noted, depending on the person, exercise does not have to involve the most strenuous physical activity. Even getting up and going for a walk every day is enough to help some people.



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