October 5, 2011

by: Blackbird

The Diabetes Link

Three things about Diabetes stand out:

1. It is increasing in prevalence. It is estimated that by the year 2200 one in five individuals will be a diabetic.

2. It is treatable.

3. Type 2 Diabetes (about 93% of all diabetes) is completely preventable through exercise and proper diet.

Secondary health conditions are a concern for individuals with disabilities. Not surprisingly, people with disabilities often rate their general health status at lower levels than their typical peers. This can be for a variety of different reasons, however predominantly, ability to exercise and eat healthy are strong influences. The Center for Disease Control, Healthy People 2010 Progress Report states that 45% of males and 56% of females with developmental disabilities are overweight. Individuals with developmental disabilities also engage in exercise and other healthy behaviors less frequently compared to people without disabilities; more than half engage in no leisure time physical activities at all. Obesity is the largest risk factor for the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Individuals in wheelchairs or with other significant physical disabilities may experience limitations to being able to exercise. Membership to fitness and health clubs and other wellness activities may be unaffordable (a disproportionate number of people with disabilities live near, at or below the poverty level) or facilities are not able to meet the unique needs of an individual with disabilities. People relying on other individuals for their care may have limited access to healthy food and a heart healthy diet.

All of these factors make getting Type 2 diabetes a serious concern for individuals with disabilities. Diabetes creates another level of difficulty for an individual with disabilities that further decreases their quality of life. Diabetes can cause cardiovascular issues which leads to sores that don’t heal properly or quickly, heart and vascular problems, loss or impairment of eye sight, infections in the extremities leading to amputation and problems with kidney function, among others. As an individual with a disability, the opportunity to live independently is highly valued. If an individual with a disability has to go on insulin, their ability to live independently becomes greatly limited.

UCP recognizes this concern and as a part of an effort by local organizations working with individuals with disabilities is participating in a Diabetes Task Force in Cuyahoga County. The primary goal of the task force is to educate area independent living providers on promoting exercise and the proper diet among their agency’s clients. It also includes educating the individuals hired for direct care on shopping, meal planning and food preparation to improve the nutritional diet of the clients being served by area providers.

So what can you do to promote a healthy diet and lifestyle in either your family or your clients (or both!)?

  1. Promote daily opportunities for exercise
  2. Prepare and eat a heart healthy diet
    1. Cut out sugary drinks
    2. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day
    3. Have a protein at every meal (this doesn’t have to be in the form of meat)
    4. Choose foods high in fiber
    5. Limit fats, especially saturated fats.
    6. Monitor your portion sizes

Diabetes Prevention and Awareness Resources:

CDC Diabetes Resources
American Diabetes Association 
Defeat Diabetes Foundation 
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC)

This article was written with guidance from UCP Registered Nurse Alice Hrezik.

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