Seminar addresses diabetes issues

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— People who know nothing about diabetes, as well as people who deal with the affliction every day, will have an opportunity to learn more about the disease that affects 16 million people in the United States.

Yampa Valley Medical Center hosts the third annual Diabetes Alert Day Tuesday, March 26 in its conference center.

The seminar, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., offers information about diabetes management and prevention.

Carol Mahoney, a registered dietician at Yampa Valley Medical Center, will give a presentation about the role of nutrition in dealing with and preventing the disease.

The American Diabetes Association originally sponsored the event.

When the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association stopped offering free monthly diabetes clinics in late 1999, the Diabetes Education Program took up the task of educating the community about the disease.

The program provides outpatient counseling and support groups.

Jane Dickinson, a nurse and diabetes education coordinator, said the annual event serves as a resource for those familiar and unfamiliar with diabetes.

Family members of people with diabetes might particularly benefit, she added.

"The purpose of the event is to alert people in the community to their risk for diabetes and teach them about a way to prevent diabetes," Dickinson said.

People who attend Diabetes Alert Day can get free blood glucose screenings, which do not require fasting, because they are taken by a finger prick.

The screenings do not show that people have diabetes, but they do indicate a risk of diabetes.

The indication of a risk may prompt people to take a closer look at their condition, Dickinson said.

Of the 16 million people in the United States who have diabetes, 5 million do not know they have the disease.

"That's the whole purpose awareness of the risk," Dickinson said.

Displays of the latest technology to combat the disease will also be on hand for visitors to view.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not make or correctly use insulin. Insulin is the necessary hormone that converts starches, sugar and other food into energy for the body.

Insulin, Mahoney said, acts as "the key that unlocks the door and lets the glucose in."

Scientists do not yet know exactly what causes diabetes, but they recognize the role heredity and a person's health plays.

Two types of diabetes exist.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body produces no insulin. Children and young adults are mostly affected. People with Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for 5 to 10 percent of diabetes, must daily inject themselves with insulin to stay alive.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot make enough or properly use insulin. Type 2, which represents the majority of diabetes, afflicts many older Americans.

Obesity and sedentary lifestyles account for much of the recent rise in the disease.

"Those kinds of things are lending themselves to Type 2," Dickinson said.

She estimated about 650 people in Steamboat Springs have diabetes.

People wanting more information about Diabetes Alert Day should call 871-2555.

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