World Diabetes Day gains local recognition

People driving by Mount Nittany Medical Center, the Centre County Courthouse and other locations might see a different color than usual Thursday — blue.

The entities have agreed to light up blue in support of World Diabetes Day, which brings attention to the fact that one-third of people are susceptible the the disease.

“This is understated when we say it’s an important health topic for our community,” Lee Ann Tripp, manager of communications at Mount Nittany Health, said. “It’s crucial.”

The Centre County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to recognize the day locally and announce participation.

Numbers for the disease are on the rise, but Jan Ulbrecht said preventative measures could help reverse the trend.

The Mount Nittany Health endocrinologist said simple changes such as increased exercise and eating better can go a long way. He said the People Centre’D on Diabetes group is beginning to publicize a “Million Steps Project,” suggesting that if people walk 4,000 steps a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, they will have taken 1 million steps, making them healthier and less likely to develop the disease or avoid complications from it.

“The sooner we get people to recognize that it’s really the inactivity, No. 1, that’s killing us, and “killing” us is the right word here, the better off we are,” Ulbrecht said.

Diabetes typically breaks down into two categories. Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that the organ secretes that helps regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in blood. In Type 1 diabetics, the person’s immune system is attacking and destroying the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 1 sufferers must take insulin to survive.

In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still produces insulin. However, either the quantity is not enough to reduce blood glucose or the body is building a resistance to insulin from overproduction to to dietary factors. Type 2 diabetics can, however, gain some measure of control over their illness with changes in diet and exercise regimens.

Because there is no cure for diabetes, Commissioner Chris Exarchos said prevention is key, and people should be concerned with living healthy lifestyles.

“That makes prevention all that much more important to make sure you don’t get to that stage,” he said.