Winter Discontent With State of Diabetes in America

November 16th, 2011

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By , BSN, RN

November is American Diabetes Month so I couldn't think of a better time to have a chat with Cheryl Winter, MS RD, MS APRN, CDE, BC-ADM, FNP-BC. Yep, I know, a whole bunch of letters, but what they mean is Winter is about as close as you can come to an expert nurse on the subject of diabetes. She is a registered dietician with a master's degree, she is a registered nurse with a master's degree and she is board certified in advanced diabetes management, to name a few qualifications.

Nearly 26 million adults and children in the United States live with diabetes and another 79 million people are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every 17 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes and it kills more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

It seems like many American's don't think having diabetes is a very serious matter, do you think that's true?

"The number one thing I say is it's not your grandmother's disease anymore. It's not just a little bit of sugar in the blood. It is a destroyer of everything in your body. It is a cardiovascular disease. It affects your entire body—your heart, your eyes, your limbs and even your sexual abilities."

If Diabetes is so dangerous why do you think so many people ignore it?

"It has no pain with it—it might be better if it did."

What are the first things you tell a patient new to diabetes?

"If I am seeing a newly diagnosed patient, I tell them they have already lost 50% beta cell function (beta cells are found in the pancreas where they make and release insulin, the hormone that controls the level of glucose in the blood). I warn them early on that even with diet, exercise and weight loss it will progress and they may eventually need insulin. I try to impress on them that insulin is not a bad thing. If your body can't make or use enough we can replace it. Plus, it doesn't hurt—the needles are small, it is fairly painless, and you inject it into fatty tissue which doesn't have any nerve endings. But, first I really emphasize treating diabetes with diet, exercise and weight loss."

Is it really that easy to manage?

"Diabetes is hugely difficult to manage. I tell my patients up front it's not easy, it's daily and to have to concentrate. We manage our bills, we balance our finances, and it's a matter of balance. Some people are receptive, others are not; they just want the medications. So much of the management is related to lifestyle, to stress."

Is the prevalence of diabetes worldwide here to stay?

"Absolutely, it's just like obesity; it's not going anywhere anytime soon. With primary healthcare physicians going away it's just going to get worse. Plus, the economy takes its toll, people can't afford their medications so they try weaning them down or taking them just here and there."

How do we attack this disease problem: with legislation, education, advertising and promotion?

"Everything needs to change. We don't have enough income these days to focus on quality of life. We need too much. Mostly, people need to take responsibility for themselves. We need to say no, not live for the moment and deal with the consequences.

"We need to be careful about where we go out to eat; choose the vegetable instead of the french fries. We can't change the industries but we can change ourselves, you know, instead of soda pick water. "

One Response to “Winter Discontent With State of Diabetes in America”

  1. Tonie Radley Says:

    Great read on diabetes, I always appreciate new information on the disease.

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