Direct advice for people in diabetes danger: ‘Take care of it’

Tina DeMoss knows the impact of diabetes up close. Her mother died from the disease.

In the last few years, she would go for regular check-ups and blood work. Her blood sugar numbers started to get into the pre-diabetes, or danger zone. Finally, this past January, came the news she dreaded.

"My A1C reading was 7.1-percent, and the doctor officially diagnosed me with diabetes," DeMoss said.

While DeMoss regrets she didn't take action to lower her blood sugar before January, she works hard today to keep her numbers in the normal range.

"I'm taking oral medication every day to help keep my blood sugar under control. I also take classes where I learn how to make good choices," DeMoss said.

Since January, DeMoss has made some big changes in her life including diet and exercise.

"I was addicted to sugary pop. It was hard, but I gave it up," she said.

Since January, DeMoss has seen her A1C drop from 7.1 to 5.9-percent thanks to taking her medicine and changing her lifestyle.

"I don't have to take insulin shots and I'm working hard to keep it that way. It was hard to see my mom struggle with diabetes and I don’t want my kids to see me struggle," she added.

Jen Lilly, RD, CDE, coordinator of the Carle Diabetes Program, says people can live well if they take ownership of their health and control their blood sugar.

"We have so many ways to control diabetes today," Lilly said. "But, the patient has to take charge of their health. We can help them, but ultimately they decide if they will follow a plan. If patients listen to their doctor, change their lifestyle and take their medicine, they can live good life."

Lilly knows it is hard to make big lifestyle changes, so that's why providers make sure patients have lots of support and education.

"We come beside the patient and help them learn to eat better. We offer psychological help and support groups. We teach them to take their medicine faithfully. We also help educate the family and make sure they are on board and support their loved one," Lilly added.

Martha Trenkamp, RD, CDE, LDN, coordinator of the nationally recognized Diabetes Education Program, helps her students to shop smart.

"We teach people to count carbs, not calories," she said.

"It's the excess carbohydrates that convert to sugar and cause problems. We show them food labels and teach them how to calculate carbs," Trenkamp said.

DeMoss has a very important word of advice to those close to the danger zone.

"Take care of it now. Don't wait. Listen to the doctor. I didn't listen, so I'm on medication and I will have to control my diabetes the rest of my life," DeMoss warned.

At age 51, DeMoss has a husband and three kids, loves to volunteer at a food pantry, ride motorcycles, camp and enjoy nature. And, she'll retire in six months. She looks to the future armed with new, healthy knowledge.

"I have lots of hope that I can control my diabetes and live a long and happy life," she said.

To learn more about Carle programs for people with pre-diabetes or diabetes, visit www.Carle.org/diabetes. People with high blood sugar should talk to their doctor about being referred to the Carle Diabetes Program. Carle patients can also get diabetes questions answered through their online MyCarle account.