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A Journey Called Diabetes 

Friday, November 18, 2011 1:30:00 PM


Diabetes is a serious and costly health problem throughout the United States and world-wide. This disease process accounts for more new cases of blindness, end stage renal disease, lower extremity amputations, and cardiovascular disease than any other single disease.  During November, the world focuses its attention on Diabetes with World Diabetes Day, November 14, and American Diabetes Month.  The Choctaw Nation has an acute awareness of this condition which affects a large number of our citizens every day.  For children born in the year 2000, one in three will develop diabetes within their lifetime.  Current estimates indicate approximately 5 million individuals with diabetes are unaware they have the disease and have not been diagnosed.  Another 57 million are estimated to have pre-diabetes, a condition significantly increasing the risk for developing diabetes.  These are frightening statistics for anyone.  Pre-diabetes and diabetes patients envision a journey where they are destined to experience the complications of this disease, and thus experience a sense of helplessness in the fight against this disease.  However, there is great hope for those who have Diabetes.  Research has shown lifestyle modification with exercise, nutrition therapy, and the time and energy to take ownership for one’s health can significantly reduce the risk and possibly prevent the onset of diabetes.

Exercise does not have to be a full gym membership or an intense program. Almost all activities such as walking the dog or raking leaves can be beneficial. Activity taking place in increments of 10 minutes per session with a total of 30 minutes per day have proven to improve overall health.   The proverb states “A journey of a 1000 miles starts with one small step”.  People need attainable goals that are realistic and within reach.  Small attainable goals help eliminate the feelings of inadequacy about one’s own ability to be successful. If the goal is exercise, ten minutes three times a day is not unattainable. If the goal is weight loss, it is much easier to work on it as 1 pound per week rather  than 30 or more pounds in a year.

Some would be surprised to learn there is no such thing as a “diabetic diet”.  Diabetes cannot be managed by simply avoiding sugar.  The key is healthy eating, generally from the same choices a person without diabetes has, and follows the same principles for balanced overall nutrition. People at risk for or with diabetes should choose whole grains, dark leafy greens, low fat milk, yellow vegetables not white, high fiber foods such as beans, and foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.  Combined with portion control, a process that matches the size of food portions to the person’s needs, these dietary changes can greatly improve the overall health in the patient with diabetes.
Staying healthy and managing diabetes requires increased efforts.  People with strong support systems seem better able to cope with the demands on their time and energy to prevent or manage their diabetes.  The Choctaw Nation has dedicated itself to be part of this support system.  The mission of the Going Lean initiative, an innovative program established by the Choctaw Nation, is “Promoting Healthy Communities”.  The Choctaw Nation and the Going Lean team will make this journey with anyone who is willing to take control of their health one step at a time.