November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Douglas Park, a diabetic and avid American Diabetes Association advocate and volunteer, shares his purpose behind combating the disease in Hawaii.
In 1974, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Since then, I have had some physical challenges due to a lifestyle of poor nutrition combined with spotty exercise. But over the last six years, I overhauled my lifestyle with a concerted effort of balanced nutrition, portion control and daily exercising like biking, walking and visits to the YMCA. While it was a challenge, I was able to do so by volunteering with the American Diabetes Association Hawaii chapter and working closely with those who are diagnosed with diabetes. It enhanced my effort and enabled me to better understand the areas of major concern for those with diabetes. I am now a strong advocate with the ADA, Captain of Team Red/Red Riders cycling and Captain of Red Hot Diabetes Striders.
The last two years have been emblematic of new paths we have taken in moving towards an emphasis on wellness and lifestyle that affects our daily lives. It is recommended that each individual who is pre-diabetic, T1/T2 or has gestational diabetes see their physician at least four times a year, but because of time constraints, will be with their doctors for a very short period of time. ADA Hawaii is helping to narrow the gaps between appointments with health fairs, business presentations and personal contact, for example teaming up with Times Supermarkets to establish a training program for diabetics, staff and personnel. Additionally, organizations such as HMSA have stepped forward and recognized the need and filled this "gap" with expansion of their wellness and lifestyle programs that affect so many of their health providers and customers.
Unfortunately, this challenge is expected to be ongoing - by the year 2050, it is projected that over 50 million Americans will be afflicted with T1, T2 or gestational diabetes. Here in Hawaii, the rate is alarmingly high, with over 130,000 diagnosed with diabetes and another 450,000 with pre-diabetes, that’s over 1/3 of our population. Those statistics don’t include Hawaii residents who are no longer qualified for medical plans or who are in denial. It would be so easy to say, "Well that’s the way it is,” yet will we allow this to happen? There are many steps we can take to improve the major areas of concern—exercise and nutrition. It may take small steps, but small steps lead to more steps and longer steps once started. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, a perfect time to get started with a new healthy lifestyle.
The ADA Hawaii office welcomes all who need assistance, help with family members, and those who require serious care through their endocrinologist, the Kidney Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and many other groups. Diabetes does affect the multitude and we can help. Click here for the ADA Hawaii office schedule of events and more information, and visit their Facebook page.