Lifting the dumbbells

Many people think that Type 2 diabetes is a line in the sand, an end of many things. There was the life before they were diagnosed with diabetes, and then the life following it, filled with pricking their fingers, food tracking and insulin.

Often, people don’t understand that they can take control of their condition. It can be a new beginning, with a focus on wellness and self-care. Regardless of diabetes status, now is the time to begin incorporating regular walks into the day, and thinking about eating as close to the source as possible (for example, cut up a potato and roast it, versus frozen, bagged French fries). As people age, they may be less inclined to lift weights, but muscle strength is so important to the path of overall wellness. It can help people with balance and preventing falls, help increase quality of life, and help control blood sugar. Also, studies are pointing to strength training as a method to reduce insulin resistance (when cells in the body don’t use or respond to insulin effectively). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, muscles burn calories even at rest.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Local nonprofit the Cayuga Community Health Network is inviting Dr. William Shang to be the keynote speaker of the first Diabetes Fair and Health Expo: Living Healthy with Diabetes on Wednesday, July 31, at the Holiday Inn in Auburn. This is event is open to anyone who wants to learn more about overall wellness, but we do ask you to sign up so we can have a head count, as lunch will be provided.

Shang brings the message of making changes to help reduce the impact of prediabetes or diabetes. Twelve percent of Cayuga County adults have diabetes, and on top of that, national statistics point to 30% of people as being at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, but many don’t even know this (this condition is called prediabetes). Shang designed the FIRST program, Fighting Insulin Resistance with Strength Training. He will speak to the important of building muscle at all ages, and connection to improved insulin sensitivity.

Meanwhile, Dan Flanick of Skaneateles Strength and Conditioning will lead an afternoon presentation, speaking about strength training, and its role in maintaining overall wellness. His discussion will be aimed at those who may not know where to start in beginning a strength training regimen.

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Both main presenters will also lead a breakout session to delve into these topics and demonstrate techniques with smaller groups.

Understanding the many factors and aspects of diabetes is so important to ensure people have the quality of life people want. To help provide an opportunity for people to do this, Cayuga Community Health Network received funding from the Central New York Community Foundation to create an interactive experience, beyond Shang’s presentation. There will be opportunities that will allow for participants to try interactive tools and educational materials, as well as exhibits and booths run by local organizations. Smaller groups will have a chance to connect with many resources available in our community, with breakout sessions being led by the Auburn YMCA-WEIU and Zen Den. Susan Marteney will discuss communication, especially in the context of working with health care providers, and nutrition educator Becky Crawford will lead a cooking demonstration. The day will have a morning and afternoon time, with at least three options for breakout sessions that will allow people to pick and choose what topics they want to learn about.

Another important aspect of this program is the ability to provide our nonprofit with information we can use to provide services the community feels it needs. We’re always asking for input on what we can offer, and what we can bring to the community.

People can explore different aspects of their health and wellness. The exhibits and presentations are meant to offer plenty of options for people to learn more about how to improve or maintain their quality of life, while living — and thriving — with their conditions.

I spoke to a woman in a grocery store a few months ago, and she said she thinks she had diabetes. After continuing to list the symptoms (in her case, frequent urination, thirst and weight gain), I told her that her next step is to get a blood test from her doctor. “Oh, but I don’t really want to know,” she said. I was saddened to hear that she doesn’t know that there are plenty of reasonable changes people can make to thrive while living with diabetes. And after all, the more we know, the more control we have over our lives, our health and our futures.

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Jessica Soule is the executive director of the Cayuga Community Health Network. For more information, visit cayugahealthnetwork.org.