Health Matters: It’s Diabetes Month. Do you know your risk?

By Mary Kay VanDriel, R. N.

November is American Diabetes Month, which is a time to take a serious look at our lifestyles to ensure we are not at risk for developing this disease. If you already have diabetes, it’s a time to make sure you are managing it effectively so you don’t create more problems for yourself.

As we enter the season of holiday treats, let’s take a moment to refocus on making healthy choices that could help us avoid developing diabetes. This month, two of our leaders at Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals teamed up to tell us more about diabetes, and some local options for managing and preventing it.

Let me introduce Caroline Ring, our chief nursing officer, and Beth Langenburg, our director of community health who you heard from last month. They shared the following information about diabetes:

In Michigan, one out of 11 adults have diabetes. Locally, our rates are higher with one in 10 adults having diabetes and one in five over the age of 55. Additionally, one in three adults are considered prediabetic, putting them at high risk of developing diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to loss of vision, loss of limbs, kidney damage, heart damage and increased risk of infections.

So what will put you at risk for diabetes? First, there are factors that you can’t control. We all get older, and unfortunately that is one of the risk factors. At age 45 you are at a higher risk for developing diabetes. Having a parent or sibling with diabetes also increases your risk for the disease. However, there are many factors within your control to reduce your risk for developing diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight and participating in regular physical activity can reduce your risk at any age. Losing 5 percent of your body weight and exercising 20 minutes per day cuts your risk of developing diabetes in half. It doesn’t take a dramatic weight loss or time-consuming exercise to make a big difference.

At Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals, we have two certified diabetes educators on staff who provide education on a variety of diabetes-related topics. They teach community members how to read nutrition labels and make necessary dietary changes. Additionally, they provide instruction on medication management and blood sugar monitoring. The goal is for patients with diabetes to learn how to reduce the impact of the disease on their bodies. Education classes are also routinely offered free of charge for those who might be “prediabetic,” meaning they are on the verge of developing diabetes. If you are interested in these classes, we encourage you to call (231) 832-6636 to learn more.

Thanks to Beth and Caroline for sharing their knowledge and I encourage you to talk to your doctor about your risk for diabetes. Together you can develop a plan that keeps you healthy.

Mary Kay VanDriel is a Registered Nurse who serves as the president of Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals. Look for her column to improve your health the last Monday of each month. If you have suggestions for column topics, email

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