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Diabetes Affects Everyone

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The month of November is American Diabetes Month, a time for all personnel to evaluate their health and ask the question, "am I at risk?"

The answer lies within a person's genes, family history and diet.

At Vandenberg Air Force Base, 210 retirees, active duty, dependents and contractors have been diagnosed with diabetes.

According to Melinda Reed, 30th Medical Operations Squadron, registered dietician and health promotions nutrition manager, age and weight are no longer factors that define the disease.

"You may be thin or young and become diagnosed with the life-threatening disease," said Reed. "That's really rough for people to understand. 'Why am I diabetic and I'm thin?'"

According to the American Diabetes Association website, www.diabetes.org, regardless of ethnic origin, race or class, anyone can be at risk for the two types of diabetes.

"Type 1 diabetes, also known as Juvenile diabetes, is found in persons under the age of 30," said Reed. "These diabetics' pancreases no longer produce insulin. Type 1 diabetics receive shots of insulin to balance their blood sugar level and extra insulin just before eating a meal. If they don't receive this insulin, they would go into a coma and die."

Type 2 diabetes is also a balancing act for those diagnosed with the disease.

The ADA states, "Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes."

Unlike Type 1 where no insulin is produced, Type 2 diabetics do produce insulin.

"It is either not enough or defective. The insulin can't get ahold of the sugar and pull it into the cells," said Reed. 

Since Type 2 diabetes is a disease of high blood sugar, obesity is a factor.

"Obesity plays a part," said Reed. "Just a 10 percent weight loss improves their glucose number."

Additionally, Reed who is also the Air Force Space Command consulting dietician has seen cases of 30-year-old airmen, who are identified as being prediabetic, the precursor to diabetes.

"They are not diabetic yet, but if they don't change the way they eat, they're probably going down that path," said Reed. This is especially true if you have an ethnic background, are overweight or have a family history of diabetes -- what Reed calls risk factors.

Experts say a healthy lifestyle can combat the disease.

"It can be prevented by healthy eating and exercise," said Reed. "Moderation in everything, your fruits and vegetables, making sure you eat protein with a fruit and don't have carbs by themselves."

A list of complications listed by the ADA website includes loss of feeling in the toes, stroke, skin complications and loss of kidney function. Reed urges everyone to come get tested.

There are simple steps Reed suggests. Know your family history and ask questions. Live a healthy lifestyle and take action if you are identified as prediabetic.

To find out more information, a general diabetes class is available at the 30th Medical Operations Squadron. It is scheduled twice a month on the first Thursday at 1:30 p.m. and the third Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Additionally, every quarter, Diabetes Conversation Map meets. It is a three part class that goes into detail about how diabetes affects nutrition, dentistry, pharmacy and optometry.

To register for either class, call the appointment line at 606-CARE.