See the recent article of the Telegram in Worcester.
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WORCESTER — When Albert Whitaker experienced a sudden and rapid weight loss in 2001, he feared he might have cancer.
He didn't. That was the good news. The not-so-good news was that he was diagnosed by his doctor with Type 2 diabetes. “I was surprised,” Mr. Whitaker said. His blood sugar level readings were through the roof. If he had ignored his situation, “I probably would be dead,” he said.
He's not the only person to get the surprise of diabetes.
“It's huge, no matter how you measure it. It's huge,” said Dr. David M. Harlan, director of UMass Memorial's Diabetes Center of Excellence, about the incidence of diabetes in 2012. About 26 million Americans have diabetes, he said. Of that number, 75 percent know they have it. “There are still quite a few who don't.”
Diagnosis, education and maintenance were among the key watchwords at a Changing Diabetes Day held at the DCU Center yesterday.
Organized by Novo Nordisk, a global health care company based in Denmark, this event for the first time in Worcester brought together numerous diabetes care providers, as well as nutritionists and other experts. Activities ranged from workshops to free screenings, including tests for blood glucose, vision and even foot blood pressure, reflecting the devastating reach diabetes can have.
Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty declared yesterday Changing Diabetes Day in Worcester, and state Rep. John J. Binienda, D-Worcester, spoke of his personal experiences with diabetes.
Joe Miller, health systems manager in the Worcester area for Novo Nordisk, said that Changing Diabetes Day will be an annual event here.
However, the ongoing bad news is that diabetes has changed in its rate of occurrence. Since 1970 the prevalence of diabetes in the United States has risen from 2 percent to 8 percent of the population, said Dr. Harlan, who was a speaker at workshops at yesterday's event.
Type 2 diabetes (adult diabetes) makes up 90 percent of the cases. But incidences of Type 1 diabetes (sometimes known as juvenile diabetes) have doubled over a 50-year period, Dr. Harlan said. Scientists are still learning about both types.
In terms of economic impact, diabetes counts for one in eight health care dollars spent, Dr. Harlan said. Diabetes is a major cause of health catastrophes such as heart attacks, blindness, amputation and kidney failure, he said.
But the good news for people like Mr. Whitaker, 57, and millions of others is that with proper care it is possible to live with diabetes without its complications. “If you embrace this disease and do the necessary things to control it, one can live a normal lifespan,” Dr. Harlan said. “But the expression I use is 'The wolf is always at the door.' ”
Laura Murphy's first child was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 7. Mrs. Murphy was told that the chances of her second child also getting Type 1 diabetes were in the vicinity of 5 percent. “With a 5 percent chance we didn't think it would be something we would worry about,” she said. Her son was with diagnosed Type 1 when he turned 10 years old. Meanwhile, her husband has Type 2 diabetes.
But Mrs. Murphy, who is diabetes-free, said that significant changes in technologies and the way care is delivered have improved the quality of life for families facing diabetes. She was at yesterday's event in her capacity as a pharmacist for CVS.
“It's so much better,” she said, with developments such as the insulin “pen,” an easier and more comfortable way of administering insulin than the old-fashioned syringe. Pharmacies can do things such as text messaging patients when their prescriptions are in need of a refill. “The lives of the diabetic family can be so busy that we need that support,” Mrs. Murphy said. “You're always carrying something with you. You've always got to have something available,” she said.
“Education should go in tandem with diagnosis,” said Mr. Whitaker of Boston, who now provides diabetes education to various community groups on behalf of the American Diabetes Association.
Over the past 11 years he has had to change from taking oral medication for his diabetes to injecting insulin. On the other hand, “I'm much more physically active. I'm watching the diet,” he said.
In fact, he looked a picture of health sitting behind the American Diabetes Association table at the DCU Center yesterday.
“I have been feeling good,” Mr. Whitaker said.