It’s natural that Jeanne Rziha, the in-house diabetes expert at Greenhaw Pharmacy in Hillsboro, took an interest in the subject.
The disease runs in her family.
Rziha teaches groups and individuals about living with, and managing, the disease. She said most of the people she works with have Type 2 diabetes, the type that appears after years of not eating right or after damage to the pancreas.
Most people with Type 1 diabetes, the sort a person is born with, already have been through classes and have experts they already consult, such as endocrinologists, Rziha said.
Diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin to control glucose, or from its inability to process glucose, or blood sugar. Glucose testing after eating or after a fast can determine whether glucose levels are too high or too low.
She recently taught a class in which none of the people had ever been to any diabetes education classes.
“I had a dickens of a time picking out handouts that would cover a lot of things for people who had never been,” Rziha said.
Her approach in teaching people how to manage diabetes is to encourage them to make manageable – and agreeable – changes.
“I don’t try and change everything, because people won’t do that,” Rziha said.
For example, she’ll ask what people normally eat for breakfast and lunch, then recommend changes and additions.
“I try to do things they can use,” she said.
One participant said he liked to eat Danish for breakfast.
“I said if you would put peanut butter on it and add an orange, that would be all right,” she said.
There’s no single set of one-size-fits-all rules, she pointed out.
“Everybody’s different,” she said. “What I tell them to do is check your blood sugar two hours after you eat. If it’s high, look back at what you ate that did that. If it’s low, look back at what you ate.”
Recently, individual instruction has been the majority of her work, Rziha said.
Although people often believe diabetes is self-inflicted from years of poor diet, that’s not a valid view, Rziha said.
“Some people are genetically predisposed to diabetes,” she said. “They’ve shown over and over, it’s genetic.”
Some have diabetes as result of an injury to the pancreas.
“I have a sister who caught the flu in high school and it settled in her pancreas,” Rziha said. “She now has diabetes.”
Managing diet isn’t all there is to managing diabetes, Rziha said.
“I tell them there are two different types of Type 2 diabetics” she said. “There are those who are running out of insulin and there are those who are becoming resistant to insulin.”
Exercise is important, too.
“If you exercise and build new muscles, those muscles are not resistant to insulin,” she said.
Glucose levels that remain over 150 can cause permanent eye and kidney damage, Rziha said.
“People need to realize what their blood sugar is supposed to be and if it’s too high, they can have serious health issues,” she said.
She doesn’t appreciate hearing people downplay the seriousness of the disease.
“Something that irritates me with people is that they have ‘a touch of diabetes,’” Rziha said. “That’s like being ‘a touch’ pregnant.”