Extension offering free diabetes classes

07/15/2010 12:00 AM |

Having trouble managing your diabetes? Suffolk County wants to help.

The county and Cornell Cooperative Extension are hosting a series of diabetes management classes throughout the month at the Cornell Cooperative Extension building on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead.

The classes, the first of which took place this Wednesday, will continue every Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. They are taught by certified diabetes educators — health care professionals, including nurses, pharmacists and dietitians, who have worked over 1,000 hours with diabetic people to earn their certification.

The sessions are free and open to anyone, but registration is required at 631-727-7858 ext. 340. A reunion class will be held on Wednesday, August 18, “just to see how everyone is doing,” said Pat Andronica, a registered nurse and coordinator of the program.

Ms. Andronica, who helped launch the public program in 1999, said that the sessions are geared to coaching people on lifestyle changes to help them manage their disease, for which there is no cure, whether they have a doctor or not.

“We’ll cover things such as healthy eating, the importance of being active, medications and community resources to help with coping,” she said. “We also talk about the damage the disease does to your eyes, kidneys and feet.”

She added that most people who attend the sessions are adults with type 2 diabetes, the adult-onset and most common form of the disease. Type 2 is a chronic disease marked by high levels of glucose in the blood. Symptoms of type 2 can include blurred vision, slow-healing infections, especially on the legs and feet, fatigue and increased urination.

Because there is no cure for diabetes, lifestyle management is the only way to slow its effects, and that takes training, Ms. Andronica said. And as the years go by, she added that she’s been seeing an increase in younger people attending the sessions.

“With today’s lifestyle and increasing weight, more younger people are developing the disease,” she said.

Type 2 diabetes has been linked to weight gain and the long-term consumption of foods that are high in simple carbohydrates.