by Catherine Brzozowski

Pennsylvanians are increasingly feeling the impact of diabetes with more than 1.5 million residents currently living with condition, and many others that may have diabetes and are unaware.

Every year, an estimated 71,000 people in Pennsylvania are diagnosed with diabetes which is contributing to serious complications including heart disease, stroke, amputation, end-stage kidney disease and blindness.

In recent years, Philadelphia’s adult diabetes rate has grown more severe and is significantly worse than in other large U.S. cities. In 2017, Philadelphia became the nation’s largest city with a soda tax that is intended to help discourage unhealthy consumption of sugary beverages, potentially fighting obesity and other chronic conditions like diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose enter your cells and produce energy. There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not produce insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, your body does not produce or utilize insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious health problems that can damage your eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Prediabetes means that your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

As diabetes rates continue to rise in the United States, the demand for awareness, education and support are more significant than ever. There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be prevented, delayed, and even reversed with healthy lifestyle changes that include: exercising regularly, weight control, and sticking to the proper meal plan to help manage your diabetes. Monitoring blood sugar and taking prescribed medication can also help.

According to Dr. Marc McKenna, family medicine at Chestnut Hill Hospital, “the earlier a person seeks advice and treatment, the better chance we have to manage or reverse the condition.” You are at risk for developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes if you are: overweight, age 45+, have a family member with type 2 diabetes, are physically active less than 3 times per week, or if you have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, prediabetes or gestational diabetes, you can live well with careful management of your condition. Chestnut Hill Hospital’s diabetes education program can help you understand, monitor and manage diabetes. The Chestnut Hill Hospital Diabetes Education Workshop is a four-week program featuring interactive discussions about current issues impacting people with diabetes. Each week focuses on a different session led by certified diabetes educator and insulin pump specialist Kirsten Puskar, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE.

Join us at the diabetes workshop on Wednesdays, from 12 to 2 p.m., at Center on the Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave. (next to the hospital behind the Presbyterian Church), to receive answers to your specific concerns. Learn what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle. No registration is required, and walk-ins are welcome. If you have any questions, call 215-248-8030. Looking for an endocrinologist? Visit ChestnutHill.TowerHealth.org, to find a physician.

Catherine Brzozwski is the communications director at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

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