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November 7, 2006 > Your Keys to Managing Diabetes

Your Keys to Managing Diabetes

Washington Hospital to Host Diabetes Seminar & Health Fair in November

by Washington Hospital

Diabetes can be deadly, and incidence of the disease is reaching epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people with diabetes has more than doubled during the past 15 years. Furthermore, the CDC estimates that one in three Americans born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes sometime during their lifetime.

“We have an epidemic in our own backyard,” says Theresa Garnero, APRN, CDE, BC-ADM, MSN, Washington Hospital’s Director of Diabetes Services. “Here in Alameda County, an estimated 100,000 people have diabetes, and about one-third of them don’t know they have it. More disturbingly, only half of the people who know they have diabetes ever get educated about the disease.”

To help people in the community gain a broader understanding of diabetes – including risk factors and disease management – Washington Hospital is hosting a special Diabetes Seminar and Health Fair on Monday, November 13 from 8 a.m. to noon. The free event, which requires registration to attend, will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, in the Washington West Building located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. For more information about the seminar, or to register to attend, please call (800) 963-7070.

In addition to Garnero, who will discuss diabetes self-management, the morning’s program will include a lecture on diabetes by Dr. Aruna Chakravorty, an endocrinologist and a discussion of nutritional guidelines for people with diabetes by Lorie Roffelsen, clinical registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. Free blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings will be available from 8 to 9 a.m. only.

“Controlling diabetes is primarily a matter of making healthy choices, and that requires people to take an active role in their own treatment,” Garnero says. Her presentation focuses on the seven keys to diabetes self-management:

  1. Healthy eating.

  2. Physical activity.

  3. Monitoring blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.

  4. Healthy coping techniques for managing stress

  5. Taking medication properly.

  6. Problem solving, including knowing when to call the doctor and how to handle situations such as holiday meals.

  7. Reducing risks.

“Reducing risks for complications from diabetes is like having a maintenance schedule for your car,” Garnero explains. “To keep your car running smoothly, you take it in for servicing on a regular basis. To manage your diabetes and keep your body running smoothly, you need to go in for an eye examination at least once a year, get your teeth cleaned twice a year to help prevent gum disease and have your feet examined by a podiatrist for bacterial infections and nerve damage once a year. You also need to get an annual flu shot.”

Healthy eating is one of the main topics that will be discussed. Obesity, which can result from poor eating habits, is a significant risk factor for diabetes.

“Healthy eating is the cornerstone of diabetes self-management,” Roffelsen emphasizes. “Most people understand that the quantity and types of food they eat have an impact on their blood sugar, but you also need to pay attention to the timing of your meals, which can be important with certain medications. Some medications need to be taken before meals to work properly – they don’t work as well if you take the medication after eating. It also helps to eat smaller meals at regular intervals. You want to maintain an even level of blood sugar in the body, without large fluctuations that can result from skipping meals or eating large quantities all at once.”

Roffelsen notes that the nutrition guidelines for preventing and managing diabetes have evolved over the past few years, emphasizing a more balanced diet that avoids an over-reliance on proteins that can be hard on the kidneys and includes moderate amounts of foods that were once considered “forbidden.” Information about making healthy food choices can be found at the American Diabetes Association’s Web site at and the American Dietetic Association’s Web site at

“It’s important to remember that each person is different, and you need to tailor an eating plan according to that person’s height, age, gender and weight management goals,” she adds. “No one plan fits everyone. The true test is to check your blood sugar levels after eating various types of foods. Plus, not everyone is a ‘typical’ person with Type 2 diabetes who is overweight. Some people can be at an ideal weight and still have diabetes, so they have to take other approaches.”

One of the most obvious approaches, Roffelsen suggests, is to observe the interrelationship between eating, medications and exercise. “Walking after meals can help your body naturally lower your blood sugar,” she says, “and that can have a cumulative effect over time. Making healthy food choices and exercising regularly may help reduce your dependence on medications.”

Another approach, which Garnero refers to as her personal “key number eight” for diabetes self-management, is to incorporate humor into your daily life. “A recent study in Japan shows that laughing can actually reduce blood glucose levels and produce endorphins,” she says.

An internationally published cartoonist, as well as a certified diabetes educator who was named National Diabetes Educator of the Year in 2004, Garnero recommends focusing on the humorous aspects of life. “Try to find the humor in your environment,” she says. “It will help you take things in stride.”

The Diabetes Services program at Washington Hospital, which requires a physician referral, offers counseling from certified diabetes educators who work closely with patients’ personal physicians to develop personalized programs for getting diabetes under control. The hospital also is launching a free monthly support group, “Diabetes Matters,” starting on the first Thursday in January. To add your name to the mailing list for the support group, please call (510) 608-1327.

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