Poor Paula Deen

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on January 25, 2012 · 0 comments

Everywhere you turn there is news about Paula Deen’s recent revelation that she has been dealing with type 2 diabetes for the last 3 years. Some say they are not surprised given the type of food she cooks and recommends. Some say they expected it because she is so overweight. Others feel she should not be a spokesperson for a diabetes drug, even though she reports giving the earnings to diabetes research.

The news media has been relentless and sometimes hurtful toward Ms. Deen. Those who have shared the same diagnoses of type 2 diabetes might feel more sympathetic. Dealing with a chronic disease and being in the spotlight is not easy.

Every 24 hours, 4,100 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in the US. Most people, at first, feel devastated. Why me? You are suddenly told to change the way you eat, to lose weight, exercise, and take medication. It is overwhelming.

Being diagnosed with diabetes is a jolt – emotionally, physically, and even socially. It is a condition that requires constant attention and modifications in how you lead your life. It isn’t unusual to feel overwhelmed and depressed. You feel you can’t control your body and your life. But, you can.

With some adjustments, life will be normal again, and sooner than most people  think. Initially, it is going to take work on your part and a commitment to follow your doctor’s orders. The pay off is that your body will respond, in ways that may amaze you, to your new diet, exercise, and medication plan.

I’m sure Ms. Deen has gone through all these stages and feelings over the last few years. One must assume that if she is ready to talk about the problem, she is now coping with the issue and has a handle on what to do. As a public figure she can provide much needed awareness to a serious health issue in America.

Eight percent of the US population has diabetes, close to 24 million people. It is projected that 44 million will have diabetes by 2034. The majority will have type 2 diabetes which responds to lifestyle changes – weight loss, healthy eating and exercise. People with type 2 diabetes can control the condition, and in some cases even reverse it with committed lifestyle changes. Sadly, over 6 million Americans currently have diabetes and don’t know it.

What are your risks? The risk of developing diabetes increases with each of the following that might apply to you.

  • Are you 45 or older?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you have a parent or close relative with diabetes?
  • Are you African American, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Hispanic/Latino American?
  • Have you had diabetes during a pregnancy?
  • Have you given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Do you have high cholesterol?
  • Do you have high triglycerides?
  • Do you exercise very little or not at all?
  • Do you have polycystic ovary syndrome (a disorder affecting the female reproductive system)?
  • Do you have dark, thickened skin around the neck or armpits (acanthosis nigricans)?
  • Do you have a history of blood vessel disease?
  • Did you have higher than normal blood sugar levels at previous screenings?

Diabetes often goes undetected for a long time because many people have no symptoms — or they ignore the symptoms because they seem harmless. You should see your doctor if you experience any of the following problems.

  • Are you often very thirsty?
  • Do you need to urinate frequently?
  • Are you hungry but not gaining weight?
  • Have you lost weight without trying?
  • Do you continually feel tired and weak?
  • Are you experiencing blurry vision?
  • Do you have cuts and bruises that heal very slowly or do not heal at all?
  • Do you have frequent infections that take a long time to clear up?
  • Do you regularly experience tingling or numbness in your hands or feet?
  • Do you suffer from annoying itching?

Everyone over the age of 45 should be screened for diabetes. If Paula Deen’s diagnosis does nothing else than make people aware, that alone is a great public service. Get screened next time you visit the doctor.

For more information on controlling type 2 diabetes, take a look at at one of our books, The Diabetes Counter, 4th Ed.

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