Family walking in field of flowers

The American Diabetes Association Diabetes Alert Day is today, March 26, 2019, and focuses on the seriousness of diabetes and encourages the use of a quick and simple Diabetes Risk Test. Managing diabetes to prevent complications and improve quality of life is a daily reality for 30.3 million Americans. Millions more are unaware they are living with diabetes (7.2 million) or pre-diabetes (75.6 million).

Peggy Prellwitz has been living with diabetes for 34 years Her brother was diagnosed with diabetes at age 6, so she was able to see what he had to do to manage his blood sugar. Many advances have been made for managing diabetes since her brother was young. While he had to do urine testing to check his blood sugar, the current method is a blood test using a test strip and a glucose meter.

Peggy knew the risks because she has a family history of diabetes.

Understanding risk factors along with blood sugar levels offers individuals the choice to make behavior and lifestyle changes to prevent or effectively manage their health condition. Developing a long-term lifestyle change can be challenging, but self-management education programs are available to offer support and tools for improving quality of life.

Growing up with a brother who had diabetes, Peggy didn’t think much about managing her disease because it just became part of her life and daily routine. Then she experienced heart problems, which required surgery, and also struggled with blood sugars that ran very high to very low. The recommended blood sugar range is 80-130 mg/dl.

A temporary loss of independence reminded her of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Peggy suspects her low blood sugar caused her to fall and break her leg. This experience was more frustrating than her heart surgery because of the limitations to her mobility. She wasn’t allowed to walk for a little over three months and was dependent on others for even simple things. It was hard to cook because their apartment is small, and it was hard to get the wheelchair up to the stove. It really was a glimpse at what loss of independence looks and feels like.

Over the years, Peggy has made lifestyle changes related to her eating and attended the Diabetes Empowerment Education Program (DEEP) classes for support. She really liked being able to talk through diabetes issues in the group, and it made her feel like she wasn’t alone. She believes in sharing your needs with friends and family, so they can be educated about diabetes as well.

Studies show that attending diabetes self-management education classes can improve diabetes knowledge and self-care behaviors resulting in lower A1C, by as much as 1 percent, making them as effective as many medications without the side effects. Those interested should contact their primary care provider or diabetes educator for local education resources.

Peggy advice to others is to listen to your doctor and follow his recommendations. Let your conscience be your guide and do your best; you have to live your life how it is best for you.

Millions who are unaware will have the choice to make a change, if they know their diabetes risk. Spread the word and encourage the use of the quick and simple Diabetes Risk Test. Find more tools and resources for diabetes self-management on the Great Plains QIN website.