If you are reading this chances are that either you or a loved one has diabetes. If they have Type 1, we are looking at emergent research for islet transplantation, or management of the disease via a number of experimental treatments. The other variations of the disease, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes, are different in that they can be managed, and there have been cases where they have been halted.
How each of these scenarios plays out for you depends largely on our understanding of the disease and the decisions we are prepared to make. Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, people diagnosed with diabetes expected to die within a few years. In the last two decades, there has been such a surge in new facets of the diabetes problem that many are looking at prolonging the dying process, painfully and slowly, with multiple complications.
Type 2 Diabetes, which used to be an adult problem, is now increasingly prevalent in children, and the management of this condition is becoming increasingly difficult because of its complications. When we consider that in 1990, 4.9 per cent of the U.S. population had the disease, that by 1998 it had increased to 6.5 per cent, rising gradually to 8.7 per cent in 2002, we know we have a problem on our hands. Especially as roughly 90 per cent of diabetics have Type 2. Unfortunately, that is not the end of the scenario.
We’ve only talked about people who have diabetes. For these, there is the added challenge of complications: the strain on the heart, the heightened possibility of high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, impotence, blindness, liver disease, cancer, and amputation. For those who do not have it, the spectre of diabetes looms over the Pre-diabetic, most of whom not only do not know they have it, but knowing about it, play Russian roulette with the biggest catalyst, obesity. And denial covers it all: “I haven’t been diagnosed” apparently means to many “I don’t have anything to worry about”. Added to that sad fact is the growing number of pre-diabetic children and adolescents. The numbers have been growing alarmingly since the seventies, with the approximate prevalence being one in five. And the single most preventative measure is weight control.
The measures taken to control the disease now have to focused on the pediatric sector. This is the hope for the future. In economic terms, we are looking at the total collapse of a health (read disease) care system, already strained to the nth, with health care practitioners themselves caught in the act!
Equally worrisome is the prevalence of diabetes in minority populations—a whole other discussions altogether. What is contributing to the strain on the nation’s health care:
- Scarcity of access to preventative advice
- Cost of medication and
- Inaccessibility of time off work
Some of the solutions are staring us in the eye, not the least of which is education.
We need to know how to shop healthily in a sea of apparent plenitude. Much of what is pleasing to the eye is not pleasing to the pancreas, the kidneys, the heart, the liver and the stomach. If everyone with a weight problem would spend 5 minutes a day getting educated on what to eat there could be a dramatic reduction of diabetes. Then picture this: if everyone would walk briskly for 5 minutes a day, working up to 35 minutes a week—for a start—the weekly quota could be ramped up to the daily one. This is, of course, a metaphor for what is possible.
This education, plus all the attendant lifestyle changes, should be advocated in doctors’ offices. Does the word “Doctor” not mean “teacher?” But with the crowding of the a hospitals and the increasingly reduced access to health care, where is the average diabetic to turn?
Some ailing health care systems are suggesting an adjunct to the doctor’s office: the health care team. Instead of one-on-one consultations patients with similar problems, such as diabetes, attend a class with question-and-answer availability in the presence of a doctor, a nurse and a dietitian. On the pro side, this would be better than no education at all. On the con side, there are big questions, such as how do the patients deal with:
- individual differences
- personal factors impacting their condition
- individualized exercise
- and the all-important factor: the role of the mind in disease management
This is precisely where the Health Coach comes in. This is the area where an infusion of the personal, laser-focused on the individual’s needs, gives the patient a fighting chance. This is the medium where the individual is heeded and served in a lasting manner.
A professional Health Coach takes people diagnosed with diabetes from where they are to where they want to be, in a timely fashion and without the concerns of others adding to the general confusion. Crucial matters of not only diet and exercise but also lifestyle, are addressed and spurred to action. Without seriously addressing the issues one at a time, with the attendant guidance and encouragement, few individuals–1% to be exact–achieve a sustained lifestyle change. A Health Coach explores, with the patient, how the disease came to be, how to deal with its many demands, and why this is important. Without the infusion of all these factors, people easily slip back into old ways. A trained, professional perspective gives the diabetic a chance.
© Jacquelyn Johnston, M.Ed., is a certified professional Health Coach and educator with the expertise and experience to help her personal and corporate clients reach and sustain optimal health and weight. Through her carefully customized programs and weekly supportive coaching calls, clients make the gains–and losses–that are difficult to achieve alone. She has been an active health advocate for more than twenty years. She shares her vast expertise through keynotes, seminars and individual coaching for those ready to lose weight, and those wanting to prevent or manage diabetes, diabesity, liver or heart disease. Get a free report, a complimentary discovery session and more.