With temperatures cooling and a food-centric holiday like Thanksgiving on the horizon, November is an excellent time to focus on preventing diabetes, a chronic illness impacting 29 million Americans – or just more than nine percent of the country’s population – according to the latest survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An astounding 86 million Americans are estimated to have pre-diabetes, an affliction in which their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to constitute a classification of Type 2 diabetes. In Native Americans, the statistics are even more stark, with nearly 15.9 percent over the age of 20 with diagnosed diabetes.

The CPN Diabetes Initiative’s staff is on the front line of the battle to alleviate the complications arising from this chronic illness and prevent its spread.

“Education is power,” emphasized CPN Diabetes Coordinator Betty Nicholson. “If people do not have the education on how to care for themselves in respect to their diagnosis of pre-diabetes or diabetes, how can they properly manage it? In our program we strive to educate on the disease process, how to eat healthy, teach the benefits of exercise and reinforce taking medications as the doctor has prescribed.”

CPN dieticians run monthly healthy cooking demonstrations for Tribal members at the Title VI Elder Program kitchen located inside FireLake Wellness Center, giving attendees an opportunity to see the preparation and taste the fruits of their labor. Certified foot care nurses see patients at least once annually, if not more frequently, to monitor changes in circulation and other complications arising from diabetes. Annual diabetic eye exams are also conducted, as vision impairment is another sign of health complications stemming from diabetes or pre-diabetes.{jb_quoteleft}In Native Americans, the statistics are even more stark, with nearly 15.9 percent over the age of 20 with diagnosed diabetes.{/jb_quoteleft}“This is not just to get glasses but to evaluate for potential problems such as diabetic retinopathy, macular edema, glaucoma or cataracts. Early detection is the key to preventing blindness,” said Nicholson.

The diabetes initiative is not just preventative though, with staff members training patients how to best manage and monitor their own health outcomes. The program has focused instruction on how to monitor blood sugar levels, administer insulin injections and distributes glucometers, test strips and lancets seen by health providers at the CPN Health Services. Though a host of factors can contribute to the disease, there are signs that Nicholson says can be  noted if someone is unsure if they may have diabetes, especially if they’re at higher risk for the disease like Native Americans are.

“We know there are risk factors,” she said. “Such as if your parents were diabetic, if mom had gestational diabetes while pregnant with you, if you weighed more than nine pounds at birth or even if are obese as an adult. Native Americans are also at a higher incidence of having it. These are just a few, but not all, of the reasons that it should be taken seriously and people focus on living a healthier lifestyle to delay or prevent its onset.”

Nicholson encourages anyone who thinks they may be impacted by these or has a concern that they may be suffering from this chronic, but treatable disease to contact CPN Health Services at (405) 878-4693 to schedule a screening with their health provider. To learn more about the CPN Diabetes Initiative, visit https://www.potawatomi.org/services/health/diabetes-initiative.