Nutritionists Work To Draw Attention To Diabetes

Elizabeth S. Reames, Claesgens, Mark A.  |  4/19/2005 10:29:24 PM

News Release Distributed 11/03/04

LSU AgCenter faculty members are working to increase awareness about the potentially devastating effects of diabetes and how to recognize its symptoms, and they have developed a new educational program to assist in those efforts.

The LSU AgCenter diabetes awareness program titled "Help a Friend, Help Yourself - Learn the Signs of Diabetes" is targeted primarily toward young people involved in the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H program.

But it also was used as part of another recent statewide event, and plans call for it to become part of a larger educational effort about diabetes offered in schools and communities statewide.

Dr. Beth Reames, an LSU AgCenter nutrition specialist and president of the Baton Rouge Dietetic Association, used the material recently to discuss the symptoms of diabetes and provide information about nutrition and diabetes at a Baton Rouge pharmacy. Her appearance was part of the observance of "Brad’s Day" – a diabetes education and screening event held Oct. 30 at 75 participating pharmacies across the state.

The event was named in memory of Brad Bella, an 11-year-old boy from Baton Rouge who died from unrecognized diabetes symptoms in 2001. Brad was the son of former state Fire Marshal V.G. Bella and his wife Grace.

"The family never knew Brad had diabetes and now have become advocates for raising awareness about the disease and symptoms," Reames said, stressing the importance of recognizing the symptoms of this potentially life-threatening condition.

That’s one of the thrusts behind the LSU AgCenter’s "Help a Friend, Help Yourself" educational program. It gives the students information about the signs of diabetes, such as extreme thirst, frequent urination, increased appetite, unexplained weight loss, blurry vision, drowsiness, weakness, abdominal pain and nausea. The program also explains the two main kinds of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.

Reames says that in Type 1, formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, the pancreas can’t make insulin. Insulin is the hormone the body needs to move glucose (sugar) from the blood into body cells to be used for energy. Without insulin, blood sugar levels get too high. Type 1 diabetes makes up 5 percent to 10 percent of all diabetes cases.

"It can’t be prevented, but it can be treated with insulin by injection or an insulin pump," Reames said.

Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, occurs when the pancreas can’t make enough insulin or the body can’t use insulin properly.

"Type 2 diabetes formerly was seen mainly in adults, usually after age 40, but it’s occurring increasingly in children because of their weight and sedentary lifestyles," the nutritionist said, adding, "Type 2 diabetes now makes up 90 percent to 95 percent of all diabetes cases."

Reames stresses that Type 2 diabetes can possibly be prevented or delayed by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

"The treatment for Type 2 diabetes generally includes maintaining a healthy weight by eating nutritiously and being physically active," Reames said, noting, "That may be enough to delay the onset or keep it under control – or people may also need to take oral medication or use insulin."

According to the American Diabetes Association, 18.2 million Americans have diabetes, and about 151,000 young people under 20 years of age have diabetes.

"Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States," Reames said, pointing out, "It affects every organ system in the body and is one of the most costly health problems in America."

She added that some people are at higher risk for diabetes. These include people who have family members with diabetes, certain ethnic groups, including native Americans, blacks, Hispanics and Asian/Pacific islanders and people with some other health problems, such as being overweight.

Reames and LSU AgCenter agent Marie Lemoine, both registered dietitians, wrote the "Help a Friend, Help Yourself" curriculum.

Other curriculum team members included LSU AgCenter agents Debbie Melvin of Lafourche Parish, Kate Ordeneaux of Lafayette Parish and Sarah Williams of the AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development department in Baton Rouge. Additional curriculum team members included Alice Carroll and Ann Wilson from the Louisiana Department of Education, Peggy Bourgeois at the Diabetes Center of the Baton Rouge General Medical Center, LaVonne Smith and Dr. Stewart Gordon of the LSU Health Sciences Center and Susan Earley of the Lafourche Parish school system.

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Contact: Beth Reames at (225) 578-3929 or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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