CHARLEVOIX — A year ago, doctors told Chris Nunemaker that if she didn’t start taking her health seriously, her kidneys would fail her.
The 47-year-old Charlevoix resident was diagnosed with pre-diabetes in 2005 and put on medication to help control her blood sugar levels.
Then in 2008, she was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic.
“I don’t have a history of diabetes, but I was severely overweight,” Nunemaker said. “I just never took my health seriously, but when the doctor told me I had to get my numbers under control and my kidneys could shut down, I knew I had to do something.”
Nunemaker enlisted the help of Peggy Spang, a diabetes program coordinator and educator at Charlevoix Area Hospital.
Since 1997, the hospital has offered a nationally-certified diabetes education program to help teach patients how to manage the disease.
The program focuses on healthy meal options and exercise plans, how to use a glucometer and check blood sugar levels. Spang also works with patientsto set up individual health goals and improve their overall health with an individualized approach.
And with the increase in number of diabetic patients in the United States in recent years, the need for the program has grown.
“We have a good number of patients come through the program each year and we’ve seen an increase in the number of patients with diabetes,” Spang explained. “But there’s also the changing economy, and not as many are able to come through the program because they have lost their health insurance and that is something we have to address and continue to meet the needs of our patients.”
The diabetes education courses are offered on a regular basis and are divided into two classes, four hours each with a variety of topics covered. A doctor’s referral is needed.
Spang said most insurance companies cover about 10 hours of diabetes education, then each year another two hours of education for an update. Medicare and Medicaid are also accepted.
For Nunemaker, the program was priceless.
“I take the program seriously and have lost 55 pounds since the beginning of this year,” Nunemaker said. “I watch what I eat and try to cut out sugars and I walk five to eight miles a day. Everyone with diabetes or at risk should go through this program. It saved my life.”
“It’s exciting and she has a great story,” Spang added. “Chris is my star student.”
Charlevoix Area Hospital also offers a pre-diabetes class for those who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or those who may be at risk for diabetes. The class is three hours and offers tips on reducing the risk through healthy eating and safe exercise. The class is offered once a month and is not covered by insurance.
For information and class schedules for the diabetes health education program at Charlevoix Area Hospital, call Peggy Spang at (231) 547-8571.
Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to use the sugar from the food you eat, which causes too much sugar in the blood. Too much sugar leads to complications, such as heart attacks, stroke, kidney damage, blindness and amputation.
— Among U.S. residents ages 65 and older, 10.9 million, or 26.9 percent had diabetes in 2010.
— Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
— There are an estimated 79 million American adults, ages 20 or older, with pre-diabetes.
— Risk factors for diabetes include being older than 45, overweight, physically inactive, family history of diabetes, elevated blood pressure and those of African American, Latino, Native American or Asian-American decent.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention