Tight Control of Diabetes is the Key

When 56-year-old Rich Wojtas was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2014, first he was “in denial,” then he felt fear.

“My dad had the same thing,” he remembers, “and he was about the same age.” Eventually, complications from diabetes led to his father’s premature death at 56.

“My mom has it too, but she’s doing well,” he adds. “She manages it."

Man and boy practising martial arts

“Tight control of your diabetes really is the key,” explains Kim Kramer, R.D., CDE, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with the Ingalls Diabetes Management Center in Flossmoor.

Rich is a great example of how keeping diabetes in check can not only stave off future complications, it can also lead to a healthier lifestyle overall.

Since he was diagnosed, the fitness-minded Hegewisch resident watches what he eats, gets a lot of physical activity and has lost 15 pounds. To keep his routine interesting, Rich runs, uses the stationary bike, stepper and also enjoys martial arts. In fact, the energetic IT supervisor is well on his way to earning a black belt in Kenpo karate.

While he’s delighted with the progress he’s made, Rich is especially proud that his strict control of his condition means he no longer has to take his oral diabetes medication.

For added support, the reformed “junk-food junkie” meets with Kramer about every six months.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it,” he adds. “If you have diabetes, you’ve really got to help yourself.”

How Diabetes Damages the Body

Did you know that diabetes can take a toll on nearly every organ in the body?

“Diabetes increases your risk for many serious health problems,” explains Kim Kramer, R.D., CDE, at the Ingalls Diabetes Management Center in Flossmoor. The good news is that with the correct treatment and recommended lifestyle changes, many people with diabetes are able to prevent or delay the onset of complications.

The heart: Heart disease and blood vessel disease are common problems for many people who don’t have their diabetes under control. In fact, diabetics are twice as likely to have heart problems and strokes as those who don’t.

The eyes: Diabetes is the leading cause of new vision loss in the U.S. among adults ages 20 to 74. Diabetes-related eye problems — some of which can cause blindness if not treated — include glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

The kidneys: Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in the U.S., accounting for nearly half of all new cases in adults.

The nerves: Over time, elevated blood sugar levels can damage the nerves. In fact, as many as seven out of 10 diabetics experience diabetes-related nerve damage. Peripheral diabetic neuropathy can cause pain and burning or a loss of feeling in the feet and other body parts. Autonomic neuropathy is caused by damage to the nerves that control the body’s internal organs and can result in many significant problems.

The skin: Problems with the skin, including bacterial infections, fungal infections and itching are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes. Other skin problems include diabetic dermopathy, acanthosis nigricans and others and happen mostly or only to people with diabetes.

Support for Diabetics

Led by Kim Kramer, R.D., CDE, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, the Ingalls Diabetes Forum meets at the Ingalls Diabetes Management Center in Flossmoor. Featuring guest speakers each month, the group focuses on topics like basic glucose monitoring, insulin and oral medications, physical activity and how to avoid complications.

The Ingalls Diabetes Forum is a free program that meets the last Monday of every month from 6-7pm. Registration is required. Call 708.915.8850 for more information.

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