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December 26, 2006 > New Class Offers Diabetes Education for All

New Class Offers Diabetes Education for All

Free Monthly Class Features Expert Speakers, Support Group

by Washington Hospital

When it comes to diabetes, what you don’t know could be severely damaging to your health or even fatal, because diabetes, known as a “silent killer,” often has no preliminary warning signs.

According to Theresa Garnero, director of Washington Hospital’s Diabetes Services, most of those diagnosed with diabetes find out about their condition through a blood test at their doctor’s office – not by diabetes symptoms themselves, which often don’t surface until late stages.

“One hundred thousand people in Alameda County have diabetes,” she says. “Of those, 66,000 know they have diabetes and the rest don’t.”

What does this mean? It means that you or someone close to you could have diabetes and not even know it. For those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, as well as those who have a family history or have contributing health factors, learning more about diabetes is vital to controlling this chronic condition.

Diabetes matters

This is where Diabetes Matters, a new free class at Washington Hospital, comes in. The monthly class begins Jan. 4, and will offer both education and support to those with diabetes. The class includes a lecture series featuring expert speakers, as well as a support group specifically for those diagnosed with diabetes.

“The goal of the class is to promote access for diabetes education for the entire community,” according to Garnero. “There’s a need for people to have access to diabetes education, and this class aims to promote diabetes education for everyone – people living with diabetes, their family members, as well as health care workers.”

With easy access being one of its cornerstones, the class is free, open to the public and does not require registration. Those seeking information about diabetes simply need to show up and learn more.

Each month, the class will feature a new expert speaker, who will focus on a different aspect of diabetes. On Jan. 4, Anna Mazzei, one of Washington Hospital’s dietitians, who is also a certified diabetes educator, will discuss the role weight management plays in diabetes.

Learn more from the experts

Other expert speakers will include physicians of different specialties, nurses, exercise physiologists and other health care professionals.

One of the effects of undiagnosed or untreated diabetes is loss of vision. In February, a Washington Hospital Medical Staff ophthalmologist will talk about Low Vision Awareness Month.

In March, another expert speaker will address Kidney Awareness Month. So what does kidney disease have to do with diabetes? A lot. According to the National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP), kidney disease results from damage to the nephrons, tiny structures inside the kidneys that filter blood.

Usually the damage occurs very gradually over years, occurring in both kidneys. And there aren’t any obvious symptoms, so most don’t even know its happening. Through Washington’s Outpatient Diabetes Program, patients are screened for kidney disease using a urine test called the microalbumin/creatinine ratio, according to Garnero.

NKDEP lists diabetes as one of the common causes of kidney disease. When you have diabetes, the body doesn’t use glucose – or sugar – very well so the glucose stays in the blood and acts like a poison. For those who have diabetes, kidney disease can be prevented by controlling blood sugar levels.

Get the facts One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to diabetes, according to Garnero, is making decisions about their diabetes management based on false information.

“Less than half of the people who are lucky enough to know they have diabetes actually seek education about their condition,” she says. “They might hear something from a family member or friend, hear about the latest diet craze on television or talk to someone in their church about diabetes.”

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be frightening, but education and making informed decisions are key elements to avoiding other potentially hazardous health issues associated with diabetes, including cardiovascular disease (CVD).

“Education is an important part of preventing problems,” according to Garnero. “By educating yourself about diabetes, you minimize your risk of having to use Washington Hospital’s Cardiac Cath Lab or Stroke Program. Two-thirds of people who have cardiovascular disease have issues with high glucose according to the European Association on the Study of Diabetes and the European Society of Cardiology. Diabetes is heart disease, period.”

Learn for free Diabetes Matters will take place the first Thursday of each month (except July) starting January 4, 2007 in Room B of the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West building, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue, across the street from the main hospital. The lecture portion of the class will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. The support group for people who have diabetes will be from 8 to 8:30 p.m.

To find out which topics will be covered during a particular class, contact Garnero for more information at (510) 608-1327 or visit, click on “Services & Programs,” and select “Diabetes Services” from the drop-down menu.

“You don’t have to be alone with diabetes,” Garnero says. “We are here as a resource. Partner with your health care provider and ask questions. And ask about getting tested for diabetes.”

Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), a component of the U.S. Department of Health Services National Institutes of Health (NIH), outlines several factors that can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. Check all that apply. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk is for developing diabetes. Contact your health care provider to schedule a blood sugar test.

  • I have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes.

  • My family background is Alaska Native, American Indian, African American, Hispanic/Latino American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.

  • I have had gestational diabetes, or I gave birth to at least one baby weighing more than 9 pounds.

  • My blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher, or I have been told that I have high blood pressure.

  • My cholesterol levels are not normal. My HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) is below 35 mg/dL, or my triglyceride level is above 250 mg/dL.

  • I am fairly inactive. I exercise fewer than three times a week.

  • I have polycystic ovary syndrome, also called PCOS (women only).

  • On previous testing, I had impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or impaired fasting glucose (IFG).

  • I have other clinical conditions associated with insulin resistance (acanthosis nigricans).

  • I have a history of cardiovascular disease.

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