JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is growing at an epidemic rate in the U.S. In Virginia alone, 41,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes each year. Members of the health management clinics at the U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley and McDonald Army Health Center at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia are working to educate U.S. service members, retirees and family members of the risks and prevention of the disease year round, but especially during Diabetes Awareness Month.
“We see it all too often; a patient is diagnosed with diabetes and they are prescribed medication, then they think all they have to do is take pills and everything will be fine,” said Shirley Pinckney, McDonald Army Health Center Health Management Clinic diabetes program manager. “But education is so important because the more someone knows about what is going on with their body, the more likely they are to be proactive about minimizing their potential risks associated with diabetes.”
While Type I Diabetes is mainly caused by genetic factors, Type II Diabetes is mostly caused by self-management factors such as weight control, diet and exercise.
“Everyone is at risk for diabetes, but the biggest contributing factors such as obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all things that we can control and manage before someone becomes diabetic,” said Ursula Kolek, U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley health manager. “Our best way to prevent diabetes is to educate those who are prediabetic and have high blood sugar of the importance of exercise and a balanced diet.”
The U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley staff are working to set up a class in the near future to educate those diagnosed and are currently work with patients one-on-one to discuss managing their disease based on their particular screenings and concerns.
The MCAHC staff host a monthly 10-hour class for diabetics and a 2-hour class for prediabetics. Pharmacists and dieticians teach class attendees about the medications they have been prescribed, balanced diets and how to alter recipes to make them healthier.
“We talk to them about what diabetes is and the complications associated with it,” said Pinckney. “We will also discuss the importance of exercise, monitoring their blood sugars and the things that they need to do on an annual, semi-annual or quarterly basis such as checking blood pressure, checking their feet, attending eye exams and dental exams.”
According to the American Diabetes Association, symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, increased thirst, fatigue and blurred vision. Oftentimes patients go undiagnosed because they believe these symptoms are related to other issues such as old age.
Patients are encouraged to talk to their primary care provider if they have these symptoms so blood sugar testing can be conducted.
For more information contact the health management clinic at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley at 225-8882 or the MCAHC health management clinic at 314-7612.