Choctaw Nation program helps treat diabetes and prediabetes

By Chris Jennings
November 1, 2021

November is Diabetes Prevention Month, a time when communities come together to increase awareness of diabetes and prediabetes.

Native Americans are three times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. The Choctaw Nation has taken steps to decrease those numbers. By instructing tribal members to make positive lifestyle changes, they can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes.

An essential first step is to be screened for diabetes and prediabetes. Prediabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.

Community Coordinator with the Choctaw Nation Diabetes Wellness Center, Lee Ann Sherrill RN, CDE, said, “Prediabetes is something that you can do a lifestyle change for to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 88 million American adults have prediabetes, and 84% are unaware they have it. Adults, as well as children, are also at risk for Type 2 diabetes. A significant cause of this is an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity affects about 14.4 million children between 2 and 19 years old. Obesity is defined as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile.

If you or your child have been diagnosed with prediabetes or are at risk, you can participate in the Nation’s Diabetes Prevention Program to help prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes.

Take small steps: Trying to make lifestyle changes can be challenging. By making changes one at a time, success rates can increase.

Exercise more. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity five to seven days a week. Start slowly by breaking time periods up throughout the day.

Keep track. Track your progress with your phone or online tracker to record what you eat, your weight and how active you are to help stay accountable. Challenging family and friends can also serve as motivation.

Eat healthier. Choose foods that are high in fiber and low in fat and sugar. Make sure your plate has a good balance of vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. Gradually switching to smaller portions is also a good way to reduce calories. Portion control is the main thing.

  • One serving of meat or poultry is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.
  • A 3-ounce serving of fish is the size of a checkbook.
  • A serving of cheese is like six dice.
  • A 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta is like a rounded handful or a tennis ball.
  • Two tablespoons of peanut butter are like a ping-pong ball.

Cut out sugary drinks. Any drink with added sugar can have harmful consequences. Drinking one to two cans of sugary drinks can increase your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes by 26%.

Many health problems can be associated with diabetes—heart disease, kidney disease and blindness, to name a few.

“Mainly, we see the eyes, the heart, the kidneys and the feet affected by high blood sugars, but it can affect the whole body,” explained Sherrill.

Diabetes Educators in Choctaw Nation clinics can help you learn to control your diabetes and live a healthier life.

Sherrill has seen first-hand the good that can come from these programs. “I was going through my book today, and I have a patient that started with me in the diabetes program on April 4. Their A1C was a 10, which is high. I had a follow-up visit in the last month, and their A1C dropped to six, which is wonderful,” said Sherrill.

Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing diabetes complications.
If you have diabetes, please see your educator in a clinic closest to you. If you’re interested in prevention and take the risk test or have been told you have prediabetes, check out the webpage for the Diabetes Prevention Program.