‘Knowledge is power’ for diabetics

Published 10:31 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dozens came to the Suffolk Family YMCA on Tuesday to get their fingers pricked. Some had just stepped out of a workout class and others weren’t even YMCA members, but all of them wanted to find out their A1C numbers.

“I’m a big believer in ‘knowledge is power,’” Eastern Virginia Medical School Research Associate Norine Kuhn said as she checked a member’s blood pressure. “If we don’t know your number, then we can’t do anything.”

Kuhn received approximately 30 people at the Suffolk Family YMCA for Diabetes Alert Day, an annual tradition in which the American Diabetes Association raises awareness about the disease and encourages screenings.

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“ADA Alert Day can serve as a wake-up call for people to learn their risk for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes — conditions that are preventable if they take steps to improve their health,” Sarah Crouch, association director of healthy living for YMCA of South Hampton Roads, stated on ymcashr.org.

There were group classes themed for the occasion, including a two-hour Zumba class Tuesday evening. Kuhn set up her table with a blood glucose monitor, Band-Aids and an Afinion AS100 analyzer to calculate A1C numbers.

“If you can get a free screening, then you better take advantage of it,” Suffolk resident Charlie Thomas said as he waited for his turn.

An A1C test determines a patient’s average blood sugar levels for the previous two to three months. That estimated average glucose — or eAG — is one of the best measurements for a person’s risk for diabetes or to evaluate a diabetic’s control over his or her glucose levels.

“I can have people with a great blood glucose reading, but their A1C will show that they’re actually pre-diabetic or diabetic,” Kuhn said. “That’s why the A1C is so important.”

According to diabetes.org, a non-diabetic should have an A1C less than 5.7-percent. Pre-diabetes is within a range of 5.7 to 6.4 percent, and anything above that is considered diabetic.

Each screening takes about five minutes from the moment they sit in the chair to when they get their results. Harriet Wills registered good numbers, which she credited to her workouts at the YMCA.

“I’m very satisfied with my report,” Wills said.

Walter Goodman and his wife, Mavis, keep diabetes in check with careful dieting.

“I’m trying to eat the right stuff and avoid a lot of that grease,” Goodman said.

Both YMCA members and non-members are eligible to enroll in the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, a yearlong group for pre-diabetics.

“If they’re in that prediabetes range, then we reach out and help them eat nutritiously, reduce their bodyweight by 7 percent and be active for 150 minutes each day,” said lifestyle coach Aprele Gaddie.

Thomas is a Type 2 diabetic with a family history of diabetes who fights his condition with daily exercise. He said his adolescent grandson was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

“It’s been a bit of an adjustment for my grandson, but he’s doing really good with it,” he said. “He’s figuring out what to eat and not to eat and how to count the carbohydrates.”

Kuhn herself lost her mother to Type 2 diabetes about 12 years ago, she said.

“It’s something that’s very close to my heart. I’m almost a crusader for it,” she said.

EVMS Medical Group physicians and providers partner with the Obici Healthcare Foundation for free screenings on Fridays at the EVMS Strelitz Diabetes Center of Western Tidewater based at Sentara Obici Hospital.

“We see people from Gates County and Franklin, people that aren’t going to travel to Norfolk to see a specialist,” Kuhn said.

She travels throughout Western Tidewater to provide her resources to people in desperate need at churches, businesses and other organizations.

“People come and see me that don’t know they’re diabetic, or they do know they’re diabetic but can’t afford treatment,” Kuhn said.

Both EVMS and the Obici Healthcare Foundation are part of the Western Tidewater Diabetes Coalition that focuses on providing resources for residents to get screened as soon as possible.

“Diabetes that hasn’t been diagnosed can cause so many health problems, like your heart, eyes and kidneys,” Kuhn said. “It can create so many problems for you, but if you don’t know your numbers, then we can’t do anything about it.”