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Medical experts statewide agree that when it comes to managing diabetes, knowledge is power.

“People need to understand how it all works together — monitoring health, having a healthy meal plan, monitoring their medication, increasing the level of activity, knowing what their risks are, including any substance abuse or depression,” said Connie Kleinbeck, inpatient diabetic educator at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City.

Health care consulting firm Primaris and a panel of health professionals coined this past Tuesday as Diabetes Awareness Day at the Capitol.

Discussions focused on helping health care professionals understand their role in assisting patients in recognizing and managing diabetes. Panelists included state Rep. Patricia Pike, R-Adrian; state Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson; Stephen Njenga, director of performance measurement compliance at the Missouri Hospital Association; Candy Williams, registered nurse at Bates County Memorial Hospital; and Primaris CEO Richard Royer.

Patients diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes endure a condition where the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes glucose and is more commonly seen in patients.

In 2015, 539,600 adult Missourians had been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the 2017 Missouri Diabetes Report.

In 2011, the report cited the prevalence of diabetes in Cole County at 8.2 percent, falling between Osage County at 7.5 percent and Moniteau County at 9.1 percent. Callaway County was highest among Mid-Missouri counties at 12.6 percent.

“It’s amazing how many people don’t understand how to use sugar substitutes,” Kleinbeck said. “With education, people can lead a productive life living with diabetes. People need to investigate what their insurance covers.”

Educational classes, diabetic shoes and meters are just a few examples of things a patient’s insurance might cover, she explained.

Diabetes education classes are offered locally through health care providers like the Cole County Health Department, St. Mary’s Hospital and Capital Region Medical Center. Patients can find out about scheduled classes by visiting, or by calling CCHD at 573-636-2181.

“At the Cole County Health Department, we have partnerships that ensure the education is available in the area,” said Mary Telthorst, director of clinical services at CCHD. “The hardest thing sometimes is getting people to attend. People should understand that diabetes can be managed.”

Missouri adults between ages 45-64 reportedly had the highest number of diabetes-related emergency room visits in 2011, while those ages 25-44 came in second.

“Data from 2013 indicate three behaviors contribute to four chronic diseases that result in over 50 percent of the deaths in Cole County,” Telthorst said. She identified behaviors such as poor diet, tobacco use and physical inactivity as factors contributing to Type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms can include increased thirst, frequent urination, hunger, fatigue and blurred vision. In some cases, there may be no symptoms.

Rep. Lichtenegger, a dental hygienist by trade, spoke on behalf of dental professionals. She emphasized the importance of health care professionals working together to detect diabetes.

“We (dentists) can at least see signs of the diabetes and tell patients to follow up and get this checked,” Lichtenegger said.

Kleinback added: “This is a team approach. With diabetes, you need eye exams to avoid blindness, regular dental exams, kidney check-ups and podiatry exams. These are all important connections to the disease. The symptoms are so silent that people can reasonably ignore the symptoms until it finally comes a head and the patient has to go to the doctor.

“Get rid of the sugar, fast food and find ways to sneak in exercise.”

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