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More Younger North Dakotans with Adult Onset Diabetes

PHOTO: November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and North Dakotans are being urged to be their own best health advocates and make changes that will lower their risk. CREDIT: Alden Chadwick
PHOTO: November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and North Dakotans are being urged to be their own best health advocates and make changes that will lower their risk. CREDIT: Alden Chadwick
November 26, 2013

BISMARCK, N.D. – It is a disease that can have negative lifelong impacts, but the good news is that there are some simple lifestyle changes that one can make to delay or even prevent the onset of diabetes.

Rhonda Pfenning, a registered nurse who is the chronic care coordinator at the Coal Country Community Health Center in Beulah, says even small improvements in healthy eating and physical activity can cut the risk, but the prevalence continues to rise and those diagnosed with Type-2 aren't just middle-aged adults.

"What I'm seeing is these children are coming in and they are heavier and looking at some hypertension issues already,” she explains. “So they've got a lot of the adult illnesses early on in life, and I do believe a lot of it is the result of a lack of exercise and a poor diet."

Pfenning says Coal Country does offer free diabetes education and nutrition classes on a regular basis, as do some other clinics within the Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas - with locations and other details online at www.communityhealthcare.net.

This is National Diabetes Awareness Month.

Pfenning says symptoms of diabetes or pre-diabetes are not always easily detectable, but among the changes to watch for is sudden weight loss.

"You might be going to the bathroom frequently, extremely thirsty,” she advises. “Those are kind of the beginning symptoms.

“Later on you will notice kind of a fruity odor to the breath of that person, but a lot of it too is feeling tired, just no energy."

In addition to lifestyle changes, Pfenning encourages regular well visits, including checks on blood sugar and cholesterol, and, she says, be your own best advocate.

"That would be taking charge of your own health and being aggressive as far as education,” she explains. “Asking the questions. We are here to help you in any way we can. And a lot of it is, people who end up with diabetes don't understand what is going on in the body and why it's important to take care of yourself."

When not properly managed, diabetes can lead to vision loss, kidney issues, nerve damage and the amputation of feet or legs.

In North Dakota, there are about 40,000 people who are living with diabetes, and upwards of another 15,000 who have the disease, but have not yet been diagnosed.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND