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Misawa is strengthening diabetes education

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Capt. Deborah Hoffman, a pediatric nurse and certified diabetes educator with the 35th Medical Group at Misawa Air Force Base, Japan, pricks her finger to demonstrate one way diabetics can test their blood sugar levels. (Jennifer H. Svan/S&S)

MISAWA AIR FORCE BASE, Japan — Mirroring national trends, Misawa City is seeing an increase in cases of diabetes being diagnosed among young people and children.

With these trends in mind, 35th Medical Group is considering expanding its diabetes education program, officials said.

Diabetic patients can already meet one-on-one with Capt. Deborah Hoffman, a pediatric nurse and certified diabetes educator.

She hopes to launch a program this fall that will bring in various experts from the hospital to talk to diabetic patients about the health issues associated with the disease.

Hoffman said the role of medical professionals in treating diabetes is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary.

“This is a paradigm shift in thinking,” she said. “We’re not just looking at diet, but also activity and eating habits.” It’s not just about checking blood sugar levels, it’s also about lifestyle changes.

If left untreated, diabetes can lead to a variety of complications, ranging from blindness to kidney failure.

Hoffman, whose grandmother died from diabetes, said her goal is to help people with diabetes understand an important part of the disease.

“If you can understand what’s going on inside your body, it helps you understand why we’re telling you certain things in the exam room,” she said. “That’s kind of my job: telling people why.”

In 2004, approximately 1.4 million adults ages 18 to 79 in the United States were diagnosed with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 1997 to 2004, the number of new diabetes cases increased by 54%.

According to the National Institutes of Health, type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 percent of newly diagnosed cases. It used to be called “adult onset.” Because diabetes usually develops later in life, type 2 diabetes is more prevalent among children and adolescents, and some researchers have linked the prevalence to obesity and physical inactivity.

Misawa base medical personnel estimate that 55 of the approximately 13,000 base residents have diabetes. This accounts for about half of newly diagnosed cases. Most are civilians and dependents, with a mix of Tricare beneficiaries, school teachers, contractors, and civilians. One is a child.

Additionally, “we have several children who are monitored for diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed.” Mr. Hoffman said.

These children may be able to receive additional support through another new program that 35th Medical Group plans to launch this fall. The initiative targets overweight children and teens, said Maj. James Streed, 35th Aeromedical Squadron health promotion flight commander. Stride said providers hope to work with schools to speak to families in forums about issues ranging from nutrition to fitness.

Stade said Misawa is “about the same or slightly below the national numbers for children at risk of being obese or overweight.”

most common type of diabetes

Type 1: The pancreas, the organ that produces insulin, does not function properly. The body produces little or no insulin because the cells that produce insulin are damaged or destroyed. It usually occurs in children or young adults.

Type 2: The body produces some insulin, but not enough, or the insulin the body produces does not work properly. It is more common in older people who are overweight, but it can also be diagnosed in young people.

Common signs or symptoms

Feeling tired all the time, feeling thirsty all the time, needing to urinate frequently, blurred vision, feeling hungry all the time, sudden weight loss, sores that don’t heal, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet Source: 35th Medical Educational materials provided by Group

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