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Fighting the diabetes epidemic in America - Sharing resources in our local community

Liane Vadheim and Mary Tvedt, Registered Dietitians, Holy Rosary Healthcare 

In the United States, 37.3 million people have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them do not know it; 96 million US adults have prediabetes, and 9 out of 10 of them do not know it. 

During American Diabetes Month, we bring attention to the fact that diabetes has become the fastest-growing chronic disease in the world. This month alone, more than 116,000 Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes, and unfortunately, 23,000 Americans will lose their lives to diabetes-related illness. 

Awareness is the first tool in fighting this epidemic, especially in the case of prediabetes. Prediabetes means that blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not as high as in diabetes. Risk factors include age over 40, being overweight, a history of gestational diabetes, a family history of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and a sedentary lifestyle. Talking with your healthcare provider is a wise option for anyone with one or more of these risk factors.  

The good news for those with prediabetes is that it is possible if recognized early, that it can be reversed. There are evidence-based options to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. The National Diabetes Prevention Program is a proven lifestyle program available in-person or online through Healthy Lifestyles at Holy Rosary Healthcare. The year-long program focuses on creating healthy habit changes and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control. Healthy Lifestyles supports participants who have found ways to choose foods and activities to benefit their health.  

If you or a family member is among the 37.3 million Americans with diabetes, there is good news as well. Working with your healthcare provider and a diabetes educator can help avoid the life-threatening complications of diabetes. It can enable patients to thrive as they learn to control the disease.  

Your healthcare provider can discuss the best options for care. Recent technological advancements in the field provide patients with options for monitoring blood glucose and insulin delivery systems. Together with the patient and family, a diabetes educator can help identify basic steps and practical strategies to manage diabetes and stay physically and emotionally healthy.  

Periodic diabetes care and education visits are encouraged from the initial diagnosis, annually, and following significant life or health changes.  Regular visits allow patients to see improved blood glucose levels, save healthcare costs, reduce the need for emergency care, understand medications, and manage technology.  We encourage those with diabetes and their loved ones to learn as much as possible about the latest medical therapies and approaches and healthy lifestyle choices.  These strategies and good communication with medical professionals can help you feel in control and better able to respond to changing needs.   

Diabetes is an increasing threat to American well-being. The good news about diabetes is that prevention and management options have increased dramatically, and support is available.   

New sessions of the Healthy Lifestyles program begin in early January and are offered for individuals throughout Montana; call 406-233-4067 for more information. Holy Rosary’s certified diabetes care and education specialist, Mary Tvedt, RD, CDCES, can be reached at 406-233-3074. Mary works with all the medical providers in southeastern Montana to provide continuity of care for patients.