Recognizing the Importance of Diabetes

This blog is in recognition of my friend and colleague Pat Lierman who I probably should have had review this before I published…but oh well. Pat is a registered dietician, diabetes educator and the WellPoint lead on obesity initiatives so she’s much more well-versed in this. Lisa is slacking off on blogging. So, you get me 2x in a row!

As I mentioned previously, living with one kidney (or three if we’re counting Lisa’s collection…) has not been found to be detrimental to long term health. By donating a kidney, I have also committed to changing my lifestyle to ensure I do my remaining kidney no harm. Most specifically I can do this by turning my attention to the prevention of diabetes and hypertension. In recognition of American Diabetes Month I’d like to talk a little more about the condition that impacts nearly 24 million Americans and why after years of lack of interest (on my part) on focusing on diabetes in my professional health care quality life it is now really important to me. While approximately 24 million Americans are estimated to have diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed), it is estimated that 57 million of us are at risk for developing the disease. So what puts us at risk?
• Age over 45 years
• Race or ethnic background (higher prevalence in Hispanics and non-Hispanic black Americans)
• Family history
• Being overweight compared to height (your body mass index)
• Low physical activity level
• High blood pressure (hypertension)
• History of diabetes during pregnancy (baby weighing over 9 lbs)
To determine your risk level, the American Diabetes Association has a diabetes risk test on their website:

Whew…they didn’t ask me to count my kidneys! And I’ll share my results- I’m at low risk currently. The only risk factor I have is family history and I have no control over that! However, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now – the U.S. has an overweight and obesity epidemic. Overweight and obesity are measured by body mass index (BMI) – a higher BMI correlates to higher risk of diabetes. We don’t become overweight and obese, for the most part, without some poor lifestyle choices over time…. Physical activity (energy out) and diet (energy in) when not balanced result in weight gain (or loss when energy out exceeds energy in). Not surprisingly, as we increase physical activity and decrease poor nutritional habits our risk of diabetes decreases. People who already have diabetes can also turn that around with lowering their BMI and increasing physical activity. Ever watched the Biggest Loser? Excellent examples of people significantly overweight, with numerous health impacts that are able to turn their health status (and lives) around through weight loss.

Now let’s take this a little further. Remember Lisa’s dialysis blog? People don’t just sign up for dialysis. It’s not fun. The need for dialysis (and kidney transplant) results from chronic kidney failure. Now, Lisa’s need for dialysis and transplant was not caused by diabetes, however; each year more than 100,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with kidney failure (2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet). Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure accounting for nearly 44% of new cases. Sobering. But the good news…. Kidney damage rarely occurs in the 1st 10 years of diabetes and usually 15-25 years will pass before kidney failure occurs. So – the point of this blog – by preventing diabetes – I go a long way in preventing chronic kidney disease. But this isn’t only important for a living donor! It’s important to the health of our population and to you. Donating my kidney has given me incredible incentive to change my lifestyle. I’m very fortunate to have two walking buddies (Brin and Gabby), thus get more physical activity than the average person (studies indicate dog owners exercise up to one hour more per day than a non dog owner). Now, I need to change my eating patterns….and for life. November is American Diabetes Month – so please join in the American Diabetes Association efforts to Stop Diabetes:

November is also the month, 2 years ago (sniff sniff) that I adopted Brin. Coincidence between saving a puppy from the humane society and preventing diabetes? I think not….


One thought on “Recognizing the Importance of Diabetes

  1. Sara, you are so right:-) The challenges are many in preventing and treating diabetes and kidney disease. You and Lisa are truly an inspiration in how to live your life. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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