A lesson for those with a ‘touch of sugar’

Published 2:39 am Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ella Patrick was diagnosed with diabetes a year after having a stroke.
Not knowing is what prompted her to action. First on her agenda was making sure her daughter would know: what the disease is, how it affects the body and how it can be prevented. Then she went about getting that knowledge to others in the community who may not know what she didn’t know.
For the past three years, Patrick has worked with East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine to put on a summer Diabetes Conference.
Saturday, she spearheaded the county’s first Diabetes Awareness Day at Mt. Hebron Church of Christ on W. Sixth Street.
Following the program, organizers discussed the possibility of reprising the seminar for a broader audience.
More than a dozen folks came out to the educational program held Saturday.
Washington Mayor Judy Jennette commended Patrick for her vision in putting the program together.
Leading the seminar, nutritionist Katherine Howdy Tate noted that 10 rooms the size of Mt. Hebron’s auditorium should fill up for such a program because that’s how many people in this region are affected by the disease.
Tate is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator.
According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly one-third of the 21 million people in the country who have diabetes are unaware that they have the disease.
The most common form of diabetes can be preventable with weight control, Tate noted.
The mayor shared a personal story of her own experience with diabetes. Jennette’s father was diagnosed three years ago. Her mother, Jennette said, started preparing healthier foods and her dad bought a treadmill and actually started using it.
Patrick expounded on the mayor’s example, saying diabetes was the one disease in which those afflicted are in total control.
Tate agreed.
A Washington resident, Tate works at Beaufort County Hospital, with the hospital’s Lifestyles Medical Fitness Center and at East Carolina University in Greenville.
Saturday, she spoke on what causes diabetes and how to stay in control of one’s diet to keep blood sugars, blood pressure and cholesterol down.
She related personal accounts of what she has seen treating patients with diabetes.
A disease that affects the way one’s body breaks down sugar — unchecked, diabetes can lead to blindness, the need for dialysis or amputation, Tate said.
Tate said she’s heard the infliction downplayed as a person having a “touch of sugar” in the bloodstream.
Sugar, Tate said, is only one culprit.
Carbohydrates, which Tate said come in the form of everything except meats and fats, break down into single units of glucose in the blood stream. Those units are supposed to make their way to the body’s cells via a hormone produced in the pancreas called insulin. When the glucose makes it to the cells, it provides energy to the body.
Two types of diabetes affect this process.
Type 1 occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin.
People are diagnosed with Type 2 — also called adult-onset diabetes — when the body is producing insulin, but the insulin isn’t able to carry glucose to the cells.
According to Tate, 90 percent of people diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes are overweight.
Losing weight, she said, helps the naturally produced insulin work the way it should.
For people who suffer from diabetes, Tate likened consuming carbs to a money budget.
Watching the amount you eat follows the same principle. You can blow all the carbohydrates you’re allowed on a Snickers bar, but it’s not wise, Tate said.
Consistency in carbohydrate intake is important, she added, saying “You should be eating about the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal.”
Tate suggested checking blood sugar levels two hours after a meal and in the morning.
She recommended budgeting 30 to 45 carbohydrates per meal, and a snack between meals should be no more than 20 carbohydrates.
The program was sponsored by Mt. Hebron and the Washington/Plymouth Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
On Wednesday the newly formed health coalition is meeting to discuss the pros and cons of physical activity. The meeting is open to the public.