Brooklyn nurses fight ‘diabesity’ in seniors

This week marks National Nurses Week – and what better way to celebrate the men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping others than by highlighting the wisdom that they’ve shared in our own community? Home care nurses serve as the “eyes and the ears” of the doctors, helping patients navigate and manage their healthcare every step of the way. Tanya Kaplan, a registered nurse with the not-for-profit Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the nation’s largest home- and community-based health care agency helps Brooklyn seniors everyday manage a range of chronic diseases and life interruptions, including diabetes.

According to recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the population (including both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases) Nearly two million Americans were newly diagnosed last year. Contributing to this epidemic? Our soaring rates of obesity.

“Diabesity” is a preventable but deadly disease. Excess weight destroys the body’s ability to process sugar properly, with life-threatening consequences. While you can’t change having a family history of diabetes, you can do something about other risk factors, such as being overweight or sedentary (inactive). If you or a loved one has diabetes, your doctor will suggest lifestyle modifications and may prescribe medications to control blood sugar levels.

The good news is, fighting diabesity also helps you reduce the risk of long-term complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney or nerve damage and vision problems. To get your diabesity under control, you’ll need to consider a number of factors, including exercise, proper nutrition, monitoring your blood sugar, and taking medications effectively so you can reduce the risk of long-term consequences and feel better.

Kaplan has advice to help you with all of the steps involved in managing diabesity.

UNDERSTANDING DIABETES

If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or your body doesn’t respond well to insulin–an important hormone. Insulin helps your body move glucose from the foods you eat into your cells for fuel (energy). There are a variety of symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes, from fatigue to increased thirst and urination to slow wound healing. Blood sugar monitoring, healthy eating, exercise and taking doctor-prescribed medications properly are important steps in managing this chronic condition. “The VNSNY nurse care manager can help you to understand your treatment plan so you can follow it with confidence and improve your health,” says Kaplan.

Three Steps To Beat Diabesity

“If you’re overweight, eating poorly or exercising infrequently, don’t wait until you’re diagnosed with diabetes to make lifestyle changes,” advises Kaplan. “There are three things you can manage now, whether you’ve got diabetes or not.”

1. Nutrition

This is the number one issue for someone confronting diabesity. “When a VNSNY dietician creates a care plan for the member,” explains Kaplan, “he or she is going to focus first on diet.” When shopping and planning meals for someone with diabetes:

•Exclude all refined sugar.

•Eat slowly and chew your food well.

•Add fruits and vegetables to the diet

•Avoid white flour, choosing brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.

•Avoid salt and fat in cooking. Use vegetable spray and add herbs, seasoning and spices to add flavor to food.

•Avoid drinking soda and juice. Eat fruit instead and drink low-fat milk.

•Control portions and don’t skip meals.

•Eat fish at least three times a week.

A caregiver should also make sure that a diabetic loved one has sugary items on hand in case of an emergency. “Always examine the refrigerator,” says Kaplan “and make sure that orange juice is present, and hard candy is kept at hand.”

2. Hydration

Water may be the secret weapon in weight loss, say researchers in the U.S. and Germany. Although the impact is modest and the findings are preliminary, the researchers say water consumption increases the rate at which people burn calories which could have important implications for weight-control programs. Drinking water packs a one-two punch for those with diabetes, since insulin dries out the natural moisture of the skin. “Make sure someone with diabetes drinks enough water,” advises Kaplan. “Caregivers should check skin for dryness and encourage hydration.” He suggests filling a pitcher to the maximum daily requirement in the morning, dispensing water by the cupful, and making sure the pitcher is empty by bedtime. A minimum of 8 cups of total fluids is recommended in a day unless restricted by other medical conditions.

3. Exercise

Staying active is a critical part of keeping diabetes under control. Interval training — alternating between short periods of high-intensity exercise and longer periods of low-intensity training — can be done at all fitness levels. It burns more fat and calories than trekking along at a constant pace.

Research shows that exercising like this improves endurance, strengthens the heart and has positive effects on metabolism. If you go for a walk, power-walk for a minute or two every five minutes. A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise everyday is recommended. If you jog, bike or swim, bump up the intensity every few minutes and sustain that pace for at least 60 seconds. (Always check with your doctor before embarking on an exercise regime.)

To learn more about programs that can help you or someone you love cope with diabetes, visit www.VNSNY.org or call 1-800-675-0391.

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