ROCK - Diabetes is a serious disease but it can be controlled.
That was the message
Louise Querceto, health education technician with the Special Diabetes
Project in Window Rock, delivered to students at Window Rock Elementary
School on May 13.
"It's not fun
being a diabetic," Querceto said. "But I can control it."
Querceto is a Type
II diabetic meaning she has to take medication orally because her
body has become resistant to insulin.
Type I diabetics
are people who cannot produce insulin to create energy for the body.
Pregnant women who
have high blood sugar but never had diabetes are said to have gestational
Diabetes is a disease
where the body does not produce insulin, a hormone that helps convert
sugar into energy. A lack of physical activity and being overweight
or obese are contributing factors.
The disease can
cause blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and amputations.
Querceto told the
students that she lived away from the reservation eight years ago
and she was physically active with her family. When she moved back
to the reservation her physical activities slowly diminished and
she became overweight within a year. Obesity and the lack of exercise
exposed her to Type II diabetes.
When she was told
she was a diabetic Querceto did what most people do - denied it.
"It was very
hard," she said. "I didn't believe that I was diabetic
but I had to face reality. I just didn't listen."
Since coming to
terms with her disease she has lost about 65 pounds and plans to
55 pounds overweight," she said.
Querceto has been
diabetic for seven years. She said she did not listen to her mother
and grandmother when they encouraged her to live and eat healthy.
Querceto and Marlena
Eriacho-Yazzie, a community health nurse with the Window Rock Diabetes
project, presented the realities of the disease to the Window Rock
At the beginning
of the presentation she asked how many students had family members
who are diabetic. About 25 students raised their hands.
When they were asked
of what causes diabetes, the students shouted "Grease, fry
bread, mutton and junk food" from fast food restaurants.
props during her presentation. When discussing the digestive process
she showed students that food is sent to the pancreas in the body
where it acts like a squeezed sponge that emits insulin.
The insulin travels
throughout the body through blood vessels and provides energy.
eat, what do you feel?" she asked the students. They responded,
Insulin helps sugar
flow freely through blood vessels but for a diabetic person, the
blood sugar becomes syrupy and moves slowly.
"You have to
make choices," Eriacho-Yazzie said, as she encouraged students
to live a healthy life.
at the all-you-can-eat places, they're not helping you any,"
Querceto said. "My mother died because of heart failure. I
was told I was diabetic but I denied it.
"Now I have
to live with this," she said, holding back tears. She said
once reality hit she made appropriate changes to her lifestyle.
"It can be
done," Querceto said about battling and controlling diabetes.
If she continues to be physically active and eat healthy, perhaps
she won't need to take any more medication.
The Special Diabetes
Project was created in 1999 under the Navajo Nation Division of
Health. The project and the Indian Health Service combined efforts
by conducting public presentations and screening.
On the national scale there are 18.2 million people who have diabetes.
That is about six percent of the American population.
nationally by IHS show 110,305 Native Americans are diagnosed with
In 2003 there were
16,205 Navajos diagnosed as diabetic. Of those numbers 39 percent
are male and 61 percent are female.
Gina Milford, diabetes
coordinator for the Fort Defiance hospital, said females go through
gestational diabetes during pregnancy that can later expose them
to Type II diabetes.
Milford said 67
percent of diabetic Navajos are overt obese which is extremely overweight,
and 38 percent are obese.
She said 51 percent
of diabetic Navajos are between the ages of 45 to 64 years old and
31 percent are over 65 years old.
There are 20 different
units located throughout the reservation and staff are continuously
working with communities to reduce the rising number of diabetic
a health education technician at Sage Memorial Hospital in Ganado,
conducted health screening for people who attended a song and dance
at Greasewood Springs Community School on April 30.
The community did
their part to raise awareness of diabetes and offered the song and
dance as a form of exercise.
"There a lot
of Type II patients," Salabye said about people who come to
the hospital. "Type II is where people mostly take oral medication
and are put on a diet.
"Type I, they
are people that are insulin dependent," she said. "Their
blood sugar is not controlled that good so they have to have insulin
shots. A lot of people have complications with it."
About 750 people
are registered with the diabetes program at Sage Memorial Hospital
but most are Type II, Salabye said.