Angie Shay of Denton has had diabetes for 25 years, but it wasn't until a few months ago that she fully understood the harmful results of poor disease management. "It took a triple bypass to get my attention," she said. "That opened my eyes, because my heart disease was directly related to my long-term diabetes and my failure to control it."
Diabetes Mellitus, more commonly referred to as diabetes, can be overwhelming for both the newly diagnosed and long-term sufferers. While it cannot be cured, it can be managed effectively through diet, medication and lifestyle. It is the seventh leading cause of death in Davidson County and ranked by the community as the fourth leading health concern.
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body either doesn't make enough insulin or is unable to use insulin to manage the blood sugar the body systems use for fuel. Because insulin is an essential element in the body's delicate chemical balance, diabetes can affect every aspect of health.
Shay admits that she didn't take her diabetes seriously, and could have avoided some of the health problems she now faces had she followed the measures necessary to control it. She said that when her husband, Bill, was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago, they both fell into a routine of not taking the precautions they should to control the disease. "It's easy to forget when you're not experiencing any symptoms," she said. "We didn't totally ignore it, but we certainly didn't watch our diet as closely as we should or take time to truly learn how to control it." Now, years later and after experiencing diabetes-related health problems, the couple is taking diabetes management seriously and using the tools they need to successfully control the disease.
Following her triple bypass, Shay and her husband enrolled in the Diabetes Self Management Program at Wake Forest Baptist Health-Lexington Medical Center. The program is structured to help people understand the disease, their prescribed treatment, and how to live a healthy life to minimize adverse effects. The class is an essential resource for learning about the types of diabetes and how to best approach nutrition, medication, monitoring and other self-care needs.
Sessions are taught by a registered dietitian certified by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) as a diabetes educator, teamed with a registered nurse who understands the challenges of diabetes and daily living. The classes are held in a group setting which encourages open discussions and allows participants to set personal goals for managing the disease.
"The class has opened our eyes," the Shays said. "We now have a good understanding of how important our diet is. Our success in controlling our diabetes is largely dependent upon what we eat."
Shay admits that the amount of information can be overwhelming, but the class offers support both during and after class to help participants be successful. "My husband and I spent years trying not to think about diabetes," she said, "now it is all we think about."
She said the instructors present information in easily understood terms, and their dedication to helping participants is clear in everything they do. "They truly worry about us," she said, "and I don't hesitate calling them if I have questions. They're always ready and willing to help."
The couple now closely monitors their food intake to maintain proper blood sugar balance along with daily insulin shots and regular doctor visits. They have also begun an exercise routine to lose weight and plan to join the hospital's monthly diabetes support group. I regret that we didn't do this long ago," Shay said.
The Shays encourage anyone with diabetes to enroll in a management program and take charge of their health. "It is purely a matter of getting the information you need and using it," she said. "Don't ignore the disease and certainly don't wait until you need a triple bypass to take charge."
Call 238-4408 for information about the Diabetes Self Management Program at Lexington Medical Center.
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