One in four: The truth about diabetes

Diabetes is growing to become one of the most common, chronic diseases in the nation, but people don’t want to look at it, according to Jean Anderson, clinical dietician at Middle Park Medical Center in Granby.

Regardless of the healthy lifestyles already predominant in Grand County, diabetes is still considered a big issue within the community.

“And a lot of it can be prevented and really reversed,” Anderson admitted.

To open the doors of local discussion regarding diabetes is a new course being held at Middle Park Medical Center in Granby with the mission to build support and provide education about healthy lifestyles — understanding the different options in exercise, diet and setting new goals ­— for those suffering from prediabetes or diabetes.

“We want to educate people at the beginning; evaluating what is being done now and what needs to change,” said Anderson.

The event is being held by the Consortium for Older Adult Wellness, and funded through Kaiser Permanente. Mary Housley of the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence and one of her local coordinators, Kathleen Tess, will facilitate the program.

The course runs for 16 weeks, meeting once a week for about an hour, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., on Thursdays.

The class teaches the importance of “smart goals”: short, measurable, realistic, appropriate, time-oriented goals, and provides a support system.

While the class is available for anyone, it’s targeted to the population most prone to becoming prediabetic and diabetic: people in their mid-60s and those overweight or obese.

There are about 27 million people in the nation suffering from Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease. Another 86 million have prediabetes, when their blood glucose is not normal, but not high enough yet to be considered diabetes, according to the American Medical Association. Type 2 diabetes is when the body’s insulin is not communicating with the blood sugar at the cellular level. As Anderson explained it, the insulin needs to be the “door opener” for the blood sugar to get into a cell. “When a person has diabetes, they’re not ‘talking,’” she explained, and that’s the problem.

When a person’s blood sugar level is consistently over the 126 range, they are typically considered diabetic.

The other form of the disease, Type 1 diabetes, is when a person’s pancreas does not make its own insulin thus requiring injections. But the focus of the class is more for Type 2 sufferers.

Left unchecked, either form of diabetes can be quite serious. People with poor circulation, a common symptom for those suffering with diabetes, can lose extremities, go into a diabetic coma or even die from the disease.

More than 11 million seniors, or 26.9 percent of the Medicare population, have diabetes, and half of all seniors over age 65 have prediabetes, according to the American Medical Association.

The association estimates that spending on Medicare beneficiaries with prediabetes and diabetes is estimated to cost more than $2 trillion over the next 10 years, including $1.7 trillion in federal spending.

Preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes must be a national priority as the disease is costly and places people at high risk for severe complications and chronic diseases, according to the association.

“I think there are a lot of preconceived prejudices with diabetes in general, whether you’re a Type 1 that may have been born with this condition, or a Type 2, and people judge you as someone who didn’t take as good care of yourself,” commented Elizabeth Thompson, marketing director for Middle Park Medical Center.

But there also exists a societal issue, perhaps a behavioral one, as some people just don’t understand why it’s important to healthily nourish one’s body, according to Anderson.

“What I see are people that really didn’t think that diet and exercise are such a prominent part of (diabetes),” she said. “They can take a medication for it, but then it becomes four to six drugs. Then they’re like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’

“But there’s still so much hope and encouragement to get back to a good diet and exercising.”

That’s why the class is important as Anderson explained people who are trying to get on the right path sometimes become discouraged if they “mess up.”

“Don’t starve yourself, eat a variety, take small steps,” Anderson said. “You can do this.”

The course teaches and reinforces the points of a healthy diet and exercise to combat or prevent diabetes while adding in an atmosphere of non-judgemental support.

Anderson encourages people to attend as many of the classes as possible: “It’s not a one-and-done program,” she said.

The element of having a peer group makes a “monstrous difference,” according to Thompson.

“Hearing people’s stories; you want to help each other and this is a chance to really open up and figure out what those tweaks are stopping us from taking care of ourselves,” she said.

It’s also important to note that the class is free, a bonus for local residents since, as Anderson explained, such classes elsewhere, particularly in the Denver area, can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars. But in Granby the nationally renowned program is free, funded by the Kaiser Permanente Community Benefits Fund.

“Kaiser (Permanente) sees this as an opportunity to help rural communities, and that’s quite a different thing from somebody who lives in Denver and has to pay to get this kind of treatment,” Thompson said.

Though the class is not expecting people to “completely do somersaults over changes,” as Anderson suggested, rather it is about modest changes for a long-term benefit.

“The changes make a difference,” she said. “It takes time.”

The program began July 13, but people are still encouraged to sign up.

Sign up for the free National Diabetes Prevention Program by calling Mary Housley at 970-531-3467 or email

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