HARLINGEN — It was such an eye opener.
Although Mary Menegay has had to manage her diabetes for years, she gained a great deal of new information while attending classes at the Valley Baptist Diabetes Center.
“I felt like it was really informative because it really covered the little details, things that as a person with diabetes you might overlook,” she said. “They set the record straight on the dos and don’ts.”
Here and across the nation, the incidence of diabetes continues to increase.
And in the Valley, it’s out-pacing the national rate, said Dr. Christopher Romero at Valley Baptist Medical Center.
“Some of the foods that are in our everyday diet are very high in starches and carbohydrates,” he said.
That’s why the Valley Baptist Diabetes Center holds regular classes to educate diabetes patients, said Ana Cruz, director of the center.
“We have morning, afternoon and evening classes,” Cruz said. “We also provide support groups once a month. It’s only for people already diagnosed with diabetes.”
Menegay enjoyed those classes. While most people in the classes with her took pills for their diabetes, she has to inject insulin.
“They explained why you have to change the needles every time,” she said. “You have to follow your diet, and if you get off track, just come back on. Sometimes like with anything you get off and you don’t want to go back. They made it easy to understand it’s no big deal. Get on back, get your sugar lowered again and keep going.”
She appreciated the thoroughness of the presentations she attended.
“Sometimes when you read material, they don’t always cover as thoroughly,” she said. “I felt that the three ladies I had were just very informative and such nice people. They explained in detail and there was no guessing about it.”
The center seeks to educate diabetes patients on better eating habits to maintain good blood sugar control as well as how to take medication properly.
“Those are two of the big components that they teach very well,” Romero said. “They also try to make sure patients are aware of appropriate screenings that all diabetics should be receiving.”
Those exams include regular eye exams and evaluations for foot injuries or infections, because diabetes can affect those areas of the body.
“Those little things sometimes get missed but they can make a huge difference in somebody’s life,” he said.
Another fact he addressed about diet is portion control.
“A lot of portions that are served do exceed recommendations,” he said. “Even though they may be getting a good food composition, if they’re eating too much of it it’s still going to lead to health problems.”
Another problem addressed in these classes is that of “brittle diabetics,” those who easily go from high blood sugar to low blood sugar.
“We teach patients about how to measure their blood sugars appropriately,” he said. “If they’re on medication such as insulin, we teach them how to dose that based upon the readings they get and the food they are consuming.”
WHAT IS DIABETES?
When you have diabetes, the glucose level in your blood can become too high. Over time, high blood glucose causes health problems including damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes and feet.
With type two diabetes, your body may not make enough insulin, and/or may not use insulin the right way. This means that glucose has trouble entering most cells. If it can’t enter the cells, glucose builds up to a harmful level in the bloodstream. This is called high blood glucose.
When cells do not respond to insulin the way they should, this is called insulin resistance. The pancreas may try to overcome resistance by making more insulin. But, over time, the pancreas may not be able to provide enough insulin.
Source: American Diabetes Association
ABOUT THE DIABETES CENTER
The Valley Baptist Diabetes Center has been in existence since 1986, and has been recognized by the American Diabetes Association since 1996.
The Center treats patients of all ages and has services in both English and Spanish.
The center hosted three health fairs last year.
The Center had more than 70 participants at its annual Diabetes Walk in Harlingen.
• Proper self-monitoring of blood glucose
• How to take medications
• Being Active
• Healthy eating
• Ways to prevent diabetes related complications
• Classes are offered morning, afternoon and evening
• The Center offers support groups the first Thursday of each month from 5-6 p.m., except on holidays and summer months
• The Center is located in the Medical Arts Pavilion entrance A, 2nd floor, Suite 201.
For more information, call 956-389-1119 or 1-888-420-7411
FACTORS IN DIABETES
“There’s a higher frequency of diabetes in Hispanic populations, and being over 90 percent Hispanic we tend to have a higher predisposition to diabetes down here. There’s a genetic component to it. The diet that we eat down here is more problematic for causing obesity and putting people at risk for diabetes.”
What are some local foods that contribute to the problem?
“Any of the high sweet foods such as pan dulce or the high carbohydrate foods such as refined flour, tortillas, a lot of the breads that we have in our diet. They make it harder to control those blood sugar levels. The breaded and fried dishes, those are all problematic for diabetic patients.”
Those foods can easily be switched out with vegetables, some fresh fruits, and foods rich in fiber.
“Some of the traditional foods of the Rio Grande Valley and northern Mexico are actually excellent for diabetics such as legumes and beans and nopales. Really a balanced diet that’s rich in fiber and vegetables is hard to go wrong with.”
Dr. Christopher Romero, Valley Baptist Medical Center
WHY IS DIABETES ON THE RISE?
Overall, diabetes is on the rise because people are more sedentary and spending too much time online. “As screen time increases and activity level decreases, we see this increase in obesity. And with the obesity you have the complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, but that’s something we can change.”
Dr. Christopher Romero, Valley Baptist Medical Center
TYPES OF DIABETES
There are three main types of diabetes: Type One, Type Two and gestational diabetes.
“Type one is for insulin dependent. Their pancreas will not produce any insulin. They will always depend on insulin. It’s an autoimmune disease. It’s not from a poor diet, but it’s still diabetes.
“Type Two is hereditary and it’s tied to obesity and not being active.”
“Gestational is mothers that are pregnant and they become gestational diabetics. Part of it is also hereditary and it runs in the family. They have bigger chances to become Type II diabetic or gestational diabetic during pregnancy. If they’ve never been diabetic they will be gestational diabetic and after the baby, they have a 50 percent chance of becoming Type II diabetic.”