Posted Jan 29, 2012
“Those are the kinds of adjustments you have to make,” Gschwind said.
Gschwind, 71, was diagnosed in her early 60s. The changes she has made to her diet have paid off. Gschwind has not only lost weight but has been able to control her diabetes.
“Diet and exercise is the bottom line,” Gschwind.
It’s a message doctors agree with, citing a rising epidemic in the number of people being diagnosed with the disease.
More than 25 million children and adults have diabetes in the United States, or about 8.3 percent of the population, according to the American Diabetes Association. Nearly 80 million have prediabetes and the ADA estimates 7 million people are undiagnosed.
Dr. Cheri Olson, a family physician with Mayo Clinic Health System, has worked with Gschwind and has been thrilled to see how healthy changes have helped.
“She’s done a really good job,” Olson said.
While there are many factors with the cause of diabetes, lifestyle seems to be the biggest contributor, doctors say. People aren’t as active and tend to eat more, Olson said.
“The horrible truism is we eat more and we eat more junk foods that are available all the time in front of us,” Olson said. “We don’t walk places. We take our car.”
It’s estimated that one-third of the population will have diabetes by 2050.
“My personal feeling is that is a gross underestimate,” said Dr. Daniel Short, an endocrinologist with Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center.
Short believes it will be closer to one out of two people.
“It’s frightening. It will sink our health care system,” Short said. “We cannot afford this.”
Where type 2 diabetes used to rarely be seen in people younger than 40, it’s becoming more common for kids to be diagnosed, Short said.
“This disease is changing as we look at it,” Short said.
About 5 percent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin.
More common is type 2 diabetes, where either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin.
The main factors with type 2 are being Xoverweight, lack of exercise and an aging population, Short said.
“Diabetes at its root is probably protection against starvation,” Short said. “In an era of 24/7 food availability, there’s never a lean season.”
Diabetes screenings are generally recommended for people 45 or older. Screenings should be done earlier for people with risk factors such as family history, obesity, high blood pressure or abnormal blood cholesterol.
It can be overwhelming to think about losing 50 pounds or 100 pounds. That’s why doctors recommend breaking it down into smaller and more doable goals. As little as losing 5 percent of your body weight can significantly decrease your risk of diabetes and other diseases.
“You just have to brainstorm and figure out one or things to get started,” Olson said.
When Gschwind first started, it was a lot harder to turn down her favorite desserts. Now, she opts for three enjoyable spoons of bread pudding, rather than a full serving.
“Going out to eat is never easy,” Gschwind said. “But there are options.”
She’s learned to change her habits, slowly and surely.
Merri Jo Guggenbuehl, a diabetes educator at Mayo Clinic Health System, said health providers also play an important role in preventing and treating diabetes.
“Sometimes it feels like a death sentence,” Guggenbuehl said. “It’s absolutely not.”
Diabetes doesn’t necessarily meaning saying goodbye forever to your favorite foods.
“It’s portion control,” Guggenbuehl said. “You look at making healthy choices for meal planning.”
Guggenbuehl likes to find out what her patients might already be doing well so they have something positive to build upon.
“People are really hard on themselves,” Guggenbuehl said. “Sometimes after they’re diagnosed there’s a lot of guilt and anger. They need to be patient and make changes slowly. It takes time.”
©2012 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)
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