Diabetes diagnosis dictates dietary changes

Local man has improved his health, lost nearly 40 pounds since August

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Legacy Salmon Creek launches diabetes support group

Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center is launching a new diabetes support group and will hold two kickoff events this week featuring former NFL player Kendall Simmons.

Simmons was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2003, shortly before his second season. He learned to manage his diabetes, returned to the field and, in 2005, won Super Bowl XL when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks.

Since retiring, Simmons has worked with a global health care company, Novo Nordisk, to raise awareness of the importance of managing blood glucose levels.

Simmons will share his story during the events at Legacy. In addition, diabetes educator Robin Hammon will provide tricks and tips to eating healthy and Legacy staff will offer diabetes complication risk assessments.

—Marissa Harshman

Diabetes risk factors

Family history of diabetes.

Weight (a body mass index of 25 or higher).


Sedentary lifestyle.

Ethnicity (incidence rates are higher among Hispanics, Asians, American Indians and blacks).

Poor diet.

Source: Diabetes educator Robin Hammon

If you go

What: Kickoff event for Legacy Salmon Creek Diabetes Support Group.

When: 1-3 p.m. and 3-5 p.m. March 23.

Where: Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital, conference rooms C and D, 2211 N.E. 139th St.

Information: Seating is limited. Reserve a spot by calling 360-487-4873. The event is free.

When Jose Red came to the United States from the Philippines, he adopted an all-too-typical American lifestyle.

He splurged on fast food, especially McDonald’s Big Macs, and became more and more sedentary.

With that lifestyle, Red also developed the disease afflicting 25.8 million Americans: diabetes.

Red was diagnosed with diabetes after a fall from a ladder sent him to the hospital last August. A blood test revealed his blood-sugar was at 400 mg/dL (about four times the normal range).

Red tried to find an explanation for his diagnosis. He doesn’t have a family history of diabetes. Was he the exception?

Through his physician, Red learned his lifestyle was to blame.

He ate processed foods and meals with lots of rice. He didn’t exercise; he considered the standing and walking he does as a dining room cashier as enough.

Red’s physician put him on medication, and he signed up for the diabetes education classes offered by his employer, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. Through the classes, Red learned what foods to avoid (namely, carbohydrates) and the importance of physical activity.

He revamped his daily routine to include walking, jogging and swimming. He adopted a healthier diet, switching out sugar for Splenda and hamburgers for the salad bar.

“I’m not a salad eater, but I have to do it,” the 65-year-old said.

Red has already seen the benefits of his lifestyle changes.

When Red was diagnosed in August, he weighed 182 pounds and had a 36- to 38-inch waist. Now, Red weighs 143 pounds and has a 31- to 32-inch waist. His blood-sugar level is consistently at 93 mg/dL, his cholesterol is dropping into the normal range and he only takes one medication for his diabetes.

“All of the rules, I follow,” Red said. “I don’t break them.”

Red’s lifestyle is what caused and improved his diabetes, but that’s not the case for everyone, said Robin Hammon, a diabetes educator at Legacy.

“Some people respond better to different things,” she said. “Some people do it all with diet and exercise and don’t need medications.”

How a person responds depends in part on family history and how long the diabetes went undiagnosed, which could cause pancreas damage, Hammon said.

Various factors make people more at risk of developing diabetes, she said. A family history of diabetes, being overweight or obese, smoking, living a sedentary lifestyle and having a poor diet are the main risk factors, Hammon said.

The key to managing diabetes, she said, is that the diabetic person sticks to their treatment plan.

“I want to help people stay motivated over the long haul,” Hammon said. “Diabetes is a long-term chronic disease you cannot turn your back on.”

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.