Smiling“Grandma had diabetes. Mom had it. I’ll have diabetes too. That’s just how it is.”

Last week, MountainWise met with the lifestyle coaches being trained for the Diabetes Prevention Program we’re sponsoring for Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, and Transylvania counties. (You can sign up for the program..keep reading).

The hottest topic of conversation was the attitude or belief that developing diabetes is “just the norm.” Diabetes just runs in the family. So maybe you lose a toe or even a foot along the way. What can you do?

Actually there’s a lot you can do. Why don’t more people know that?

We need people to know there’s a lot they can do to prevent diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. But for some reason, diabetes isn’t “scary enough” yet.

If left untreated, diabetes can cause:

  • Loss of vision up to the point of blindness
  • The need for toe, foot, and even leg amputation
  • Kidney damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Stroke

We think those are pretty scary! But it feels very different to be the person facing those complications. Especially because reversing the development of diabetes requires important lifestyle changes.

Why isn’t type 2 diabetes scary enough?

Think about cultural attitudes toward smoking cigarettes 50 years ago. Smoking tobacco was the norm. Everyone did it. At one point, doctors even recommended smoking to their patients who needed to relax!

Then people started to learn about the side effects. They were inconvenient, but, everybody smoked. So how bad could it be?

The tide began to turn as anti-smoking campaigns emerged. Over time, smoking became “scary.” More and more people quit. Now, smokers are treated almost like pariahs.

How do we end the diabetes epidemic in Western North Carolina?

At MountainWise, our mission is to make the healthy choice the easy choice. We are piloting this diabetes prevention program to teach at-risk individuals how to make healthier choices for themselves so they can stay diabetes-free. We think the more that people do this, the more cultural norms will change. What we want to hear is,

“Grandma had diabetes. Mom had it. That means I might get it if I’m not careful. I’m going to maintain a healthy weight, eat well, and exercise every day so I don’t develop diabetes.”

Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes?

Learn your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Visit our MountainConnections program page to take the quiz, and to find a program near you. Classes start in January 2016 so register soon.