According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 37 million
people in the United States have diabetes, and one out of every five individuals
don’t know they have it. Known as the “silent killer,”
diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
American Diabetes Day, observed every fourth Tuesday of March, is part
of a movement to create awareness about the silent disease that affects
approximately 11.3% of the U.S. population. In support,
Southeast Georgia Health System is committed to increasing awareness and providing comprehensive diabetes
education to patients, their families, and the community.
“Diabetes is a chronic, lifelong disease that has become more widespread
in the United States, with Georgia ranking above the national average
of diabetes diagnoses,” explains Sue Ullrich, R.N., MA.Ed., CDCES,
diabetes program coordinator, Southeast Georgia Health System. “When
you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. This triggers
the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin, which acts as a carrier
that allows glucose to enter the cells from the blood. If your body doesn’t
produce enough insulin to manage glucose, it cannot function or perform
properly. This leads to symptoms of diabetes.”
There are four types of diabetes.
- Type 1: the pancreas does not produce insulin. Previously known as juvenile
diabetes, type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in childhood.
- Type 2: the most common form of diabetes; the pancreas doesn’t make
enough insulin, or your body can’t use it effectively. The risk
of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. Other risk factors include
obesity and a family history of diabetes.
- Prediabetes: Blood glucose levels are higher than what is considered normal,
but they’re not high enough to qualify as diabetes. Before people
develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have prediabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: A form of high blood sugar affecting pregnant women.
With the help of diabetes medicines and a healthy lifestyle, everyone can
learn to manage their condition and live a long, healthy life. However,
diabetes that is not well managed can damage blood vessels and organs,
leading to severe complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney
disease, nerve damage, and eye disease.
“Although diabetes is a very serious disease, it can be controlled
with healthy eating, exercise, and medication,” adds Ullrich. “It’s
important that you work with your doctor to keep your blood sugar levels
normal through special meal plans and regular physical activity. Even
small changes can have a huge impact on managing diabetes and preventing
Southeast Georgia Health System’s free diabetes education programs
have been recognized by the American Diabetes Association for providing
Quality Self-Management Education and Support. The education programs
help patients and their families learn how to cope with this serious disease
and maintain a healthy lifestyle. For more information, visit
sghs.org/diabetes-education or call 912-466-1689 for the Brunswick Campus or 912-576-6488 for the