Wednesday, July 27, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Ignoring Diabetes Gets Complicated

"I chalk up the fact that I got diabetes to my body saying, 'Dude, you have been doing wrong for way too long'." 
                                                                --Randy Jackson

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Recently, a friend told me her husband had a problem with his vision. He needed two surgeries on the good eye before they could operate on his bad eye.  It was a tough lesson in taking ownership of one’s health.  

I asked my friend if her husband had his A1C level checked recently and she said he had not been to the doctor in a while and she had no idea what his A1C result was.  Having diabetes comes with a lot of decisions to make if you don’t want complications, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, or vision loss or blindness.  Diabetes affects the entire family, as my friend is learning right now.  When ignored, diabetes becomes a much more expensive disease with the price of physical complications plus lost wages and time away from work.  

Let's talk about how uncontrolled diabetes can affect the eyes.  High blood sugar slows down the circulation of the blood.  Blood flow to the tiny vessels in the eyes can be affected.  This is called diabetes retinopathy.  If not detected early, it can lead to loss of vision and blindness. Controlling diabetes - by taking medications as prescribed, staying physically active and eating a healthy diet - can prevent or delay vision loss.

Here is the list of questions I have created for anyone recently diagnosed with diabetes:
  1. How often should I check my blood sugar?
  2. What times of day are best for me to check by blood sugar? 
  3. What are my daily blood sugar goals to prevent complications? 
  4. What happens if my blood sugar is too high and what do I do about it?
  5. What happens if my blood sugar goes too low and what do I do about it?
  6. Can I keep eating pasta and drinking sodas whenever I want?  What about fruit juice, bread, and grains like wheat? 
  7. What eating changes do I need to make?
  8. What is the A1C test and how often should I have it done?
  9. What should my A1C be?
  10. What about my blood pressure?
  11. What about my cholesterol levels? 
  12. How does stress affect my blood sugar?
  13. What tests do I need and at what frequency? 
  14. Do I need to see any specialists?
  15. Do I need to exercise?
  16. How can my family help me?
  17. What do I need to do besides check my blood sugar?
  18. If I don’t check my daily blood sugars, don’t monitor my A1C levels, don’t get an annual dilated eye exam, don’t check my feet regularly and don’t see a doctor regularly, I’ll still be OK, right? 

Sadly, the last question is the only one my friend’s husband ever asked since being diagnosed.  Having diabetes means getting educated by one’s doctor or by others on your team so that the plan for preventing complications is crystal clear to you.  Having diabetes means taking deliberate actions to maintain control and manage diabetes so that it does not control you.  In my experience working with patients, not all doctors are good teachers.  They often say to a patient, “Go to the bookstore and pick up a book about diabetes.”  Books can help to educate us but they often don't give us all the answers we need.

The reason I started Growing Healthy Kids, Inc. was because of people like my friend’s husband. Since successfully working with adults with diabetes and knowing that diabetes is controllable, preventable, and reversible, I focused on educating parents about preventing diabetes.   Obesity in children is a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes in children.  Obesity, like diabetes, can be reversed and prevented.  

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Mothers and fathers who have diabetes can educate their own families so that their children can learn healthy eating habits, the importance of being physically active and staying at a healthy weight.  The younger kids are when they learn good habits, the longer they will enjoy the benefits of good health. Ignoring diabetes gets complicated because diabetes has complications.  We can replace ignorance with awareness. 

Speaking of controlling diabetes with healthy eating, here’s one of my favorite new recipes.  It is even more special because of the delicious mangoes my neighbor gave me last week from her tree!


Black rice has more antioxidants than blueberries, according to a study by Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.  Known as “forbidden rice”, this delicious, nutty rice has a black bran coating has outrageously high levels of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, including vitamin E and anthocyanin (which gives the rice its black hue).

  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons liquid coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut aminos (or use Bragg Liquid Aminos)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3-1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups black rice
  • ½ red, orange, or yellow pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • ½ cup unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small firm ripe mango or avocado, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

In a large bowl, whisk together orange juice, lime juice, coconut oil, coconut aminos, and a pinch of salt.  Whisk to blend.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat water to boiling.  Season lightly with salt and add black rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes. 

Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. 

As rice stands, add red pepper, celery, cilantro, red onion, peanuts, scallions, mango or avocado, and jalapeno to the large bowl containing dressing.  Stir to coat ingredients.

Add black rice, stirring gently until coated.

Allow to sit for 30 or more minutes for flavors to blend.

SOURCE:  Coconut: The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Superfood by Stephanie Pedersen, 2015

If you or a loved one has diabetes, get help now.  Start at or click here.

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids