Richard Neybert has lived with diabetes for the past 8 or 9 years, where heâ€™s taken oral medication to offset high blood sugar.
While diabetes can be caused by poor lifestyle choices, Neybertâ€™s diabetes was hereditary.
â€œMy parents and siblings have it,â€ he said.
According to statistics from the Diabetes Education Program at Lincoln Medical Center, as of 2003, 4,900 people in the county have known diabetes. Another 2,500, however, remain undiagnosed.
Almost 80 people turned out at S. Ray Lowder Elementary in Lincolnton for the fourth annual diabetes fair.
According to nurse Gwen McBee, the program coordinator for the diabetes program at LMC, the month of November is diabetes awareness month.
â€œThereâ€™s new information available on diabetes all of the time, and the fair is a good way to make the information available,â€ she said.
Nineteen vendors, including mail-order diabetic supply companies, glucose meter representatives and different hospital departments relating to diabetes, were represented.
Local merchants were also featured, according to McBee.
â€œWe try to include local merchants like The Drug Store every year,â€ she said.
The event is held before daylight savings time ends since many seniors attend the fair.
â€œThat way, they donâ€™t have to drive home in the dark,â€ said McBee.
Effects of diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 18.2 million people nationwide â€“ 6.3 percent of the population â€“ that have diabetes.
Of those, 13 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, while an estimated 5.2 million people donâ€™t know they have diabetes.
Diabetes, left poorly cared for or untreated can cause many complications according to McBee.
â€œItâ€™s the leading cause of blindness, heart attack, people having to start kidney dialysis treatments and people having amputations of their arms and legs,â€ she said.
Neybert says the motivation for controlling his blood sugars comes from two sources.
â€œOne guy is in my American Legion and had a leg taken off,â€ he said. â€œThe other guy I know is blind from diabetes.
The three major ways to combat diabetes is through medication, diet and exercise.
Separately, the three cornerstones of diabetes control work, but only up to a point. But in concert together, people have lived rich, full lives with diabetes.
Several diabetic supply companies were part of the diabetes health fair Monday night.
Medicare pays for testing supplies but most people need companies that accept assignment so that it doesnâ€™t have to be paid out of pocket, according to McBee.
Part of the medication route for diabetics is checking blood sugar levels frequently and often.
That involves having to â€œstickâ€ â€“ or prick â€“ fingers or forearms to draw blood into a test strip thatâ€™s read by a meter.
For Neybert, he doesnâ€™t have to worry too much about his blood sugar.
â€œI check mine once per day, in the mornings,â€ he said.
He fights his diabetes through oral medication and another cornerstone of diabetes control â€“ diet.
Seniors attending the diabetes fair learned that not only can they prepare healthy meals right from their own kitchens, thereâ€™s also a program available where they can take advantage of nutritious meals here in Lincoln County.
Itâ€™s the 18 month-old program through Lincoln County Senior Center (LCSC) called â€œHealth and Wellness Club.â€ Sue Brooks is the nutrition coordinator through LCSC.
â€œWe work with restaurants to offer lower-fat meals for our seniors,â€ said Brooks. Right now, 132 seniors participate in the program with another 247 on a waiting list.
People attending the fair were also able to sample goodies straight from the kitchen at Lincoln Medical Center, as they displayed two recipes prepared without sugar.
â€œThe kitchen used artificial sweeteners to prepare the food,â€ said McBee.
Neybert believes that chemicals that are used in food is causing more and more people to be diagnosed with diabetes.
â€œIt used to be that all old people got diabetes,â€ he said. â€œNow, Iâ€™m seeing kids getting diabetes. Itâ€™s got to be something weâ€™re eating.â€
Neybert says he also stays active, which is another crucial piece of the diabetes-care puzzle: Exercise.
Neybert says he walks every day in order to â€œburn the sugarâ€ as he calls it.
â€œI also paint, do carpentry and masonry work and exercise with dumbells,â€ he said.
Exercise is the third piece of the diabetes care puzzle and a major building block of diabetes control, according to Kandace Long with the YMCA of Lincoln County.
â€œWe have many members who are diabetic,â€ she said. â€œMembers do everything from walking to swimming and lifting weights.â€
Exercise, especially walking, means that diabetics also have to take care of their feet.
Enter the poor circulation that most diabetics suffer while treating their disease, and the problem of wounds.
â€œIn diabetics, wounds do not heal as fast as in people without diabetes,â€ said McBee.
The diabetes fair featured a department at LMC called Optima Therapies, who was doing blood pressure screenings.
Neybertâ€™s blood pressure was 158/92, which is considered elevated.
â€œIâ€™m a little excited,â€ he said. â€œWhen a diabetic experiences stress, good or bad, itâ€™s going to affect their sugar and blood pressure.â€
Courtney Hilliard, LMC Community Relations Director, says the fair is a way for the hospital to educate people on taking care of themselves.
â€œWe are in a small community where healthcare goes beyond the hospital,â€ she said. â€œWe know people want to go where they feel comfortable within the community.
â€œWe want to assist people in making lifestyle changes,â€ she continued. â€œThe diabetes fair goes a long was to do that.â€
On the net
American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.org
Lincoln Medical Center: www.lincolnmedical.org
Lincoln County Senior Center: www.lincolncounty.org
by Jon Mayhew