Empath Health Pharmacy Clinical Pharmacist Christina Assad

Did you know you might have prediabetes or diabetes but aren’t aware of it?

More than 84 million adults (more than one in three) in the U.S. have prediabetes, reports the Centers for Disease and Prevention Control. Prediabetes means having a higher-than-normal blood sugar level that isn’t yet considered diabetes.

The CDC notes that having prediabetes increases the chances for developing heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes, the most common of type of diabetes in which the body doesn’t properly use insulin. Additionally, more than 30 million American adults have diabetes, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, loss of lower limbs and other serious health issues.

Educating Seniors on Diabetes Prevention

During Nutrition Month in March and approaching Diabetes Alert Day on March 26, we look at a CDC-based Diabetes Prevention Program aimed at decreasing the risk of diabetes for our participants at Suncoast PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), a member of Empath Health.

Our Empath Health Pharmacy staff teaches the class healthy behaviors for diabetes prevention, including mindful eating, physical activity, stress management, better sleep and diet trends and myths.

The group recently met for their fourth session. They focused on healthy and nutritious meals, from grilling or stir-frying with healthy oils and fresh lean meats and vegetables to eating fruits and whole grains to limiting intake of sodium and sugar.

“It’s important to see how you can eat. We will talk about what’s healthy and what’s not healthy. You can use alternatives to salt and not stop salt altogether,” explained Christina Assad Pharm.D, BCGP, CPh, CDE, a clinical pharmacist for Empath Health Pharmacy.

Garlic and herb seasoning mixes and other herbs were suggested as salt substitutes.

“Adding herbs, like thyme, can intensify the taste of veggies or meat. I can use less salt and that’s going to take down my blood pressure and weight. I ain’t gonna say that I ain’t gonna ever have salt, but I would like to achieve that someday,” said Suncoast PACE participant Yvonne D. Baldwin-Johnson.

Calories were another point of discussion.

“What’s the difference between calories and carbs? How do we get high cholesterol? Why should we choose foods that are low in fat and calories to prevent diabetes?,” asked Amar Vora, a pharmacy technician for Empath Health Pharmacy.

Suncoast PACE participant Clarietha Landers replied, “When we are not burning calories, they store as sugars and turn into fat. That causes them to get sticky in our vessels and keep our bodies from making insulin, which eventually puts us at risk for diabetes.”

Building a balanced and healthy plate was another topic.

“Non-starchy veggies should be the biggest part of your plate. Frozen or even canned veggies can be used as long as they are low-sodium and rinsed off,” noted Vora.

Assad added, “We are getting most of our nutrition from the veggies on the plate and we have protein, so it’s a balanced meal. Oftentimes, we don’t think about what we are drinking but that really is part of the plate. We need to make sure we are writing down what we are eating.”

Some participants shared their successes, challenges and goals around food choices and physical activity.

Baldwin-Johnson reported areas of progress and needs for improvement.

“Me and my husband went to Treasure Island to a seafood festival. I did a two-and-a-half hour walk and we played old school music and a lot of people were dancing. We left there and went to Red Lobster. I ate all of a chef salad and it was good. Another time I ordered a Culver’s burger, had one bite and put the rest in the fridge and didn’t have anything else for the rest of the night. I’m not messing up anymore this week. I’m doing oatmeal and I’m going to get a salad.”

Know Your Risk

The CDC lists type 2 diabetes risk factors as those who:

• Are age 45 or older
• Are African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander or Asian-American
• Are overweight
• Aren’t physically active
• Have high blood pressure
• Have family history of type 2 diabetes
• Have previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)

Click here to take a test to find out your risk for prediabetes. You can also ask your doctor to test your blood sugar level.

Click here to learn more about Suncoast PACE.