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With diabetes cases reaching epidemic proportions across the country, health care leaders are working to help people manage the disease, and better yet, prevent them from getting it.

On March 21, speakers from Butler County Health Care Center came to Hruska Memorial Public Library to share knowledge about the risks of diabetes and to show how it can be prevented. 

“They need to bring more focus on diabetes because there’s a huge amount of people out there that have diabetes, but people do not take it to the next step about the problems that you can develop with your health,” said Connie Schmit, registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at BCHCC.

Diabetes affects 30 million Americans, nearly 10 percent of the total U.S. population. One in four adults is unaware that they carry the disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

BCHCC sponsored the event, which attracted about 50 people for information and refreshments.

Schmit said she became a certified diabetes educator five years after her daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

“Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high,” said Schmit, quoting the NIDDK. 

She explained children and young adults are more prone to type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 need to take insulin to sustain, she said.

“There are a lot more people with type 2 diabetes,” she said.

Although type 2 occurs most often in people who are middle-aged and older, Schmit said more children are being diagnosed with type 2, which is commonly associated with a person’s genetics and weight.

Diabetes is becoming more common among young people, she said.

As Schmit proceeded with diabetes-prevention tips, she suggested to take the tips one step at a time because they can be overwhelming.

“The blood sugar needs to be as close to the normal range as possible so that all of your organs can function well,” Schmit said.

Other health issues that stem from diabetes are heart attack, depression, eye disease and gum disease, she said. People with diabetes don't adequately pump sufficient amount of blood throughout their system, and that can lead to deterioration of organs.

Schmit provided tips for reading labels on food products so consumers are aware of the amount of sugar in their food. As an alternative to analyzing food labels, keeping a food diary helps a person improve their diets

“It is a very manageable disease,” Schmit said.

The next presenter was Eric DeWispelare, wellness director and pre-diabetes lifestyle coach at BCHCC.

DeWispelare, who has been in the exercise field for 15 years, spoke about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He said many people are unaware of how to prevent diabetes and how to control the disease once they are diagnosed.

“A lot of this disease that we talk about are preventable,” DeWispelare said.

The Wellness Center at BCHCC is in its third year of offering a pre-diabetes class, a year-long program that helps people at risk of developing diabetes a chance to build a new lifestyle.

DeWispelare said that those taking the class work on their habits together to become more healthy through changing their diet and becoming more active. Class members provide each other encouragement to keep working for better health. It takes a long time to change habits in diet and exercise that have built up over years, he said.

“Accountability in the group, that is the key to making it work,” DeWispelare said.

Some in the audience said they had diabetes in their families and were eager to learn more about preventing the disease.

After the presentations, former hospital employee Kathy Bongers said she plans to make some changes to her family’s meal plans.

“We need to get a lot of this meat out of our diet and I think that is something that I need to focus on for my family,” Bongers said.

For more information on diabetes and the pre-diabetes, contact the BCHCC Wellness Center at 402-367-1256.

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