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Diabetes a growing issue in the San Antonio region

By Chelsy McDaniel | Pulse Staff Reporter

San Antonio has twice the national average of Americans who live with diabetes, a chronic disease that can cause an early death.

Diabetes affects 25.8 million people of all ages in the United States. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not make insulin at all, and Type 2 is when the body cannot properly use the insulin that the pancreas creates.

Tiffany Dale, college health educator, is a staff member at Palo Alto College. Her job is providing overall health and wellness for the students at PAC. The health department covers topics ranging from STDs to coping with diabetes. Dale did an internship with the Children’s Diabetes Center at The University of Texas branch in Galveston, so she has the background to give students more information on how to prevent the disease.

Diabetes at risk chart "Courtesy: YMCA of the USA"

“For some people, it is a lack of knowledge and awareness,“ said Dale.

For someone who may be at risk or already has diabetes, health educators suggest providing healthy foods on campus, like whole grain cereals, salads, yogurt and hummus.

San Antonio is an overweight city, so Type 2 diabetes is seen more now than Type 1. Type 2 was mainly seen in adults, but more and more it’s showing up in children because of our unhealthy lifestyles.

“And because of our not-so-healthy eating and genetics, heart disease goes along with diabetes,” said Dale. “We are beginning to see people in their 20s and 30s with heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks. It just becomes a vicious cycle.”

Usually someone with Type 2 diabetes, especially an adult, has a combination of illnesses, like high cholesterol and heart disease, which could then lead to other more serious problems.

Mako Ivory, peer educator at Palo Alto College, knows firsthand how the disease works. He was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2003 at the age of 41. Ivory saw signs three to four years prior to being diagnosed. His moods changed, and he became more irritable.

“Symptoms are mild until they reach a point when they become dangerous,” said Ivory. “Diabetes is kind of like high blood pressure. It’s one of those silent killers.”

Frequent urination and extreme thirst are two symptoms people have before they are diagnosed.

“People associate these symptoms with the Texas heat,” said Dale. “But that is the human body trying to get rid of those extra sugars.”

Thirst comes in because the kidneys are pulling out liquids, water and sugars. Urination comes into effect because it is getting the liquids and sugars out of your body.

Family genetics and racial backgrounds, like Native-Americans, Hispanics and African-Americans, are more at risk. If you have a parent with diabetes, then you have a 25 percent chance of having diabetes. If both parents have diabetes, then that percent increases.

Dale and Ivory both agreed that money also plays a role in the disease. Some people worry about how changing their diet will affect their pocketbook. People buy what they can afford.

“They think it’s cheaper for that super-size fast food menu,” said Dale. “It’s like someone said the other day, ‘You think healthy food is expensive, try a kidney transplant or heart transplant.’”

Students, faculty and staff with questions on the disease can learn about symptoms as well as exercise and diet’s role in managing and possibly preventing the disease. If you have questions, pick up leaflets at the Health Information Table located outside the Center for Academic Transitions in the Student Center.

Bexar County also has the Texas Diabetes Institute (TDI) whose purpose is entirely dedicated to diabetes prevention.

Their focus is to promote healthy lifestyles and teach people the skills needed to live with diabetes and avoid serious complications. Their services provide treatment, education, professional training and the search for a cure.

Facilities include things like a pharmacy, fitness center, and healthy cooking classes. For more information about the disease, visit their website.