While COVID-19 has understandably dominated the medical spotlight for the past year and a half, many professionals have been quick to point out that longstanding ailments like heart disease and cancer didn’t magically disappear as the pandemic unfolded. Quite the opposite, in fact: Many folks may have been so focused on COVID-19 prevention and/or possible exposure at a medical facility that they didn’t pay attention to the warning signs or seek treatment for common medical issues. Crucial diagnoses and preventative care may have fallen behind.
But, as Dawn Turner will attest, when you’ve spent the better part of more than two decades educating people about it, you don’t lose sight of a threat as widespread and insidious as diabetes. A registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Northwestern Medicine Delnor in Geneva, Turner has spent most of her career highlighting the ins and outs of diabetes and, specifically, the central role that nutrition plays in the prevention of the disease.
“It’s important to get this information out into the world,” she says. “Because unfortunately, the statistics say the number of people being diagnosed is continuing to rise.”
As more and more people are afflicted with diabetes, Turner says there are a number of new tools, products, and medications to help those living with the disease. Some of these include continuous glucose monitors, medications that can help with portion control, calculating aides to help monitor progress of controlled blood sugars, and new insulin pumps with advanced features to automatically adjust to changing sugar levels.
While these are all certainly welcome developments, Turner’s focus remains on diabetes prevention. From adjusting nutrition and managing stress to increasing physical activity and smoking cessation, there are plenty of ways to avoid adding to the statistics. But perhaps the most important thing to understand is that the fight against diabetes is a collective undertaking.
“People need a support network to help prevent complications from diabetes, one that includes their physician, a diabetes care and education specialist, their pharmacist, their eye doctor, their dentist and so on,” Turner explains. “I like to say we’re like a pot of soup—we start with the basic ingredients and add in extras to enhance and provide what each of us may need. So be sure to reach out and ask for help from your support network. And if you’re that person supporting someone with diabetes, always be asking what you can do to help.”
Photo courtesy Dawn Turner