Friday, November 14, 2014

November is World Diabetes Month

Ten years ago this month, a cardiologist told me I was a prime candidate for dropping dead at any moment because my heart was clogging up, as if Elmer’s glue was flowing through my veins. I checked into the hospital the next day, and doctors were cracking open my chest for a five-way heart bypass that saved my life.

I’m telling this story because November happens to be American Diabetes Awareness Month – a time to focus attention on a growing disease that hits 30 million people in America and more than 80 million people who are diagnosed with a ticking time bomb called “pre-diabetes.” If we do nothing, it is projected that one in three people will have diabetes by 2050 and I can only imagine what that will do in terms of health care costs.

As I celebrate my 10-year anniversary of my new lease on life, this also is a good time to reflect on what I have been through, what could have happened and maybe offer some hope for those who are battling this disease.

A clogged up heart was only one of the complications I have experienced since being diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago. I lost a toe in 2001, essentially lost my vision two years later and left my job as an editorial writer with the Idaho Statesman. When I told the human resource director that I couldn’t see to read, he gave me some friendly and sound advice: “Chuck, go home and get well.”

I followed that advice.

Nobody dies directly from diabetes; it’s the complications from this silent killer that can make death a welcome relief in the later stages. Heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, amputations and nerve damage are among those complications. If I didn’t have the bypass surgery 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be around to tell my story. Instead … I’m 64 years old and feeling great. My heart is strong and healthy, my eyesight has fully recovered (I don’t need glasses, except for reading) and – get this -- I’m getting more distance on my golf shots than I’ve seen in decades.

That isn’t supposed to happen! I don’t know if all this is the result of the grace of God, or dumb luck, but I’ll take the outcome. Diabetes is a horrible disease, but it is not a death sentence. It can be managed and some of the effects can be reversed (I’m living proof). Certainly, diabetes means some lifestyle changes – more exercise and better eating.

There’s plenty of help for those with the disease, including the American Diabetes Association that is leading the effort to find a cure for the disease. The ADA also provides expertise in management and offers tips for a healthier lifestyle – such as more walking and smarter cooking. So, it’s isn’t all gloom and doom – although there’s enough information that can scare the daylights out of people. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and two of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. The rate for amputations for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for people without diabetes. The national cost for treating the disease is estimated at $245 billion.

The National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control are entities that are working to find a cure. Aside from that, there are no grand government solutions. Individuals have responsibility to help themselves. It starts with the home and parents promoting a healthier lifestyle for their kids, who will be part of this world in 2050.

November is a good time to talk about all of this. But healthier living cannot be confined to a single month.

Chuck Malloy of Boise writes columns for Ridenbaugh Press and is the Diabetes Awareness Chairman for Lions District 39W.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The battlefront

I have said many times in talks with Lions Clubs that stopping this deadly disease called diabetes is going to take nothing short of a full-scale war. It's not going to be won by politicians making big promises, or creating massive government programs to bail us out of this horrible situation. It's going to be won by people, such as fellow Lions, who are willing to raise awareness about this disease and set the right examples.

The good news is there is an organization that is out there fighting this war. It's the American Diabetes Association, whose ultimate goal is to find a cure for diabetes, wither it's type 1 or type 2. I have become a volunteer for this fine organization and am exploring ways to create a partnership with Lions Clubs throughout Districts 39W and 39E.

Although a cure for diabetes has not been found, the American Diabetes Association has a mountain of information available about effectively managing and living with the disease. Getting that information is as simple as calling toll free (1-800-DIABETES) or by visiting the website (

If you have a friend or loved one with diabetes, pass along this information. If you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association can be your lifeline.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yogurt in schools is a win for Idaho

The following is an editorial that appeared in the Idaho Statesman on Aug. 16

The introduction of Greek yogurt in the Meridian School District, and other school districts in three other states, may not prevent the health-related crisis surrounding childhood obesity and diabetes in the United States within the next two decades, but it's a move in the right direction.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, working with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., convinced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make Greek yogurt a nonmandatory addition to the department's school nutrition program for the coming school year. This week, Crapo joined Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Meridian Superintendent Linda Clark and others at Pioneer Elementary School to announce that high-protein Chobani Greek Yogurt will be brought into Meridian schools as part of a national pilot project. If the project is successful, the USDA could expand the offering to all states.

For Idaho, that's a winner on several fronts. It's a big boost for Twin Falls company Chobani, one of the world's largest Greek yogurt producers, and Idaho's dairy industry. What's more important is that it offers a healthy meal choice for kids -- which is sorely needed.

SeAnne Safaii, president of the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietics, and an assistant professor at the University of Idaho, supports the program.

"I am a big advocate of Greek yogurt because of its high protein content and probiotics," she said. "Many students, especially young girls, don't like the school meals because they perceive them as high in fat. The yogurt parfaits with fruit are a healthy way to get a meal in them. I would have been one of those yogurt parfait girls in high school."

Safaii is aware of the urgency to provide better food options in schools. She says that nearly 26 million people in America have diabetes , and the incidence rate is growing most rapidly in children and young adults. The cost for treating the disease in 2012 was $245 billion, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Safaii is also well aware of the dire predictions concerning obesity. By 2030, all states are projected to be above 44 percent, and some states will be above 60 percent. Idaho, which is at roughly 25 percent, is projected to be at 50 percent by the end of the next decade.

If projections hold true, about half of the United States will be 30 pounds or more overweight by 2030. That means diabetes and heart disease will be on the rise and health care costs will go through the roof.

One pilot project to bring Chobani Greek Yogurt into schools isn't going to derail the health crisis that's coming. The nation, quite simply, needs to declare war on obesity. But it's good to see Crapo, two top school officials and industry leaders use their influence to promote healthy food options in the schools.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What You Might Not Know About Jay Cutler

I have never been a Chicago Bears fan, largely because one of my best friends practically worships the Bears. I root for the Washington Redskins, and my friend constantly reminds me of that NFL championship game in 1940 that the Bears won -- 73-0. Never mind that the game was played 10 years before I was born, or that the Redskins defeated the Bears two yers later, or that the Redskins have won their share of Super Bowls in recent history. My friend makes sure that the 73-0 score is all I remember from that football rivalry.

So on some levels, it pains me to say this. I hope the Bears win the Super Bowl this season. Why? I like their quarterback, Jay Cutler, and respect what he has accomplished on the field despite having type 1 diabetes. Don't think the disease has held him back. Cutler is one of the top quarterbacks in the National Football League and is a big reason why the Bears are 8-4.

Most football fans probably don't know that Cutler has diabetes. But if the Bears win the Super Bowl, expect the issue to come front and center.

Here's what he had to say in an interview with Diabetes Forecast: "I want to play as well as IU can on the field, but I really want to use my story to reach as many people as I possibly can with this disease -- especially kids. Before diabetes, I wanted to win a Super Bowl, have a long career.I still will want to win. But I also want to help make people more aware of the issues faced by people with diabetes. I don't want to just be a face. I want to be hands-on and make a difference. I think I got this for a reason. I know I have the opportunity to help to change lives. I definitely want to continue to have an impact and inspire kids with the message that diabetes doesn't have to stand in the way of achieving their own goals in life."

See why I want the Bears to win the Super Bowl?

Cutler has never made excuses, or asked for sympathy. But he faces far different challenges than other quarterbacks. While quarterbacks, such as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, are going through last-minute preparations before a game, Cutler is checking his blood sugar level a half a dozen times -- and taking an insulin shot if his reading is too high. He continues to check his blood sugar readings during the game.

On the field, he's one of the toughest competitors in the game -- and that's what the fans see. Off the field, there's another side to Cutler that most fans don't know. Eli Lilly & Co. donates $1,000 to the American Diabetes Association's Diabetes Camp for chilren for every touchdown pass he comples and $100 for every pass he completes. Cutler regularly appears at the camps to tell what it's like to be a star athlete with diabetes.

He reaches hundreds, if not thousands of people, through his efforts. If he wins a Super Bowl, Cutler will reach millions with his promotion for diabetes awareness.

Go Bears!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Overcoming Diabetes

It's hard to believe it, but the holidays are just around the corner. For people with diabetes, or those who are battling weight issues, it's not always a pleasant time of the year -- when turkey and all the trimmings are piled high on the plate and favorite pies are readily available, before and after dinner.

Of course, we didn't even get to the warm-up to this food/sugar/carb extravaganza, which is Halloween. To those with diabetes, especially, the season provides more tricks than treats.

So how can people better cope with the mountain of holiday temptations shoved in front of our faces? Dr. SeAnne Safaii a registered dietitian and assistant professor of dietics at the University of Idaho, will provide some answers during a seminar sponsored by Lions District 39W on Saturday, Nov. 10. The free seminar, titled "Overcoming Diabetes -- Information That Can Save Your Life" -- will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at Plantation Country Club. Seating is limited, so please send me an RSVP by calling 830-7832, or by email (

Dr. Safaii's presentation will be a highlight of the event. And you don't need to have diabetes, or be overweight, to appreciate the importance of healthy eating during the holiday season. She has written hundreds of newspaper articles and delivered many keynote presentations on matters such as cancer prevention, medical nutrition therapy, feeding children, intuitive eating and overall wellness. As the UI describes, "She brings a unique blend of practicality and freshness to everyday nutrition advice, which has made her a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader for professional and consumer groups across the country."

As the mother of three teens/young adults, Dr. Safaii understands the challenges of getting families to eat healthy foods and be physically active. She has served as chair for Idaho's Action for Healthy Kids, past president and media representative for the Idaho Dietetics Association, the Governor's Task Force on Nursing and state adviser for the Idaho Health Occupations Students of America.

The seminar will have more. On the "Overcoming Diabetes" side, I will be joining Erin Matson, a registered nurse, in telling our stories about living with diabetes and some complications we have experienced. The bottom-line message is that diabetes is not a death sentence. It can be controlled and managed, and the effects can be reversed.

On the "information" side, Lisa Gonser, the marketing and communications manager for St. Luke's Humphreys Diabetes Center, will discuss services and programs available there. Humphreys, a world-class diabetes education center, has been a lifeline to thousands of people with diabetes. Also on the program are representatives with Active Health Chiropractic, who will discuss overall wellness. The seminar will conclude with presentations from Take Shape for Life and My Fit Foods, which offer products aimed at helping people lose weight, lower blood sugar levels and reduce or eliminate insulin consumption.

It's an ambitious program, and the best part is that it is free. Donations will be accepted, with proceeds going to the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation -- an organization that also is dedicated to increasing diabetes awareness.

Saturdays are always tough days to conduct health seminars. But if you have diabetes, or weight issues, this seminar will be well worth your time. Indeed, there will be information that can save your life.

Chuck Malloy is the Lions District 39W chair for Diabetes Awareness. The district covers southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Diabetes and Discrimination

I frequently receive material from the American Diabetes Association, which offers a multitude of useful information about coping with type 2 diabetes. Here's one of the recent postings from the American Diabetes Association.

Neal is 54 years old and was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He works as a teller at a very busy bank. Neal needs to take several breaks during the day to check his blood glucose level and have a snack if necessary. Neal talks to his manager about needing regular breeaks. His manager says that Neal can only take breaks when the bank is not too busy. Withy the constant flow of customers, some days it's hard for Neal to take breaks when he needs them, or any breaks at all.

What should Neal do?

  • Nothing and take really quick breaks when the bank is less busy.
  • Nothing for fear of being fired for taken too many breaks.
  • Quit because he feels he'll be fired anyway if he takes the breaks when he needs.
  • Realize he has rights as a person with diabetees and must be allowed to take breaks even when the bank is very busy.
The answer is D!

A person with diabetes has rights under the American with Disabilities Act. Your employer must make reasonable accommodations so you can care for your diabetes. Neal should politiely explain to his employer that regular breaks are necessary for his medical condition and protested under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He may need to follow up with his request in writing.

If you have any questions about discrimination, please call 1-800-DIABETES (342-2383) to get help from a legal advocate, or visit to learn more.

Monday, September 24, 2012

So you think we're fat now?

Just when you think it couldn't get worse in terms of obesity in America ... Check out the report released this month by Trust for American Health and the Robert Wood Foundation. The report title says it all: "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future."

Here's what we're looking at by 2030, less than 20 years from now. If America continues at its current pace, all states will have an obesity rate of more than 44 percent by then. Mississippi and Oklahoma are projected to have obesity rates of more than 66 percent, and 39 states will be above 50 percent. At the moment, Mississippi leads the nation with an obesity rate of 34.9 percent, so the rates will just about double. Idaho's obesity rate, which is 27 percent, will jump to more than 53 percent.

In laymen's terms, obesity is defined as 30 pounds overweight according to height-weight charts. So we're talking about doubling the number of people at least 30 pounds overweight.

The bottom line is, we're killing our kids. If projections end up being true, we'll see dramatic increases in type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Health care costs will go through the roof.

The report has several policy recommendations, including:
  • Fully implement the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act by implementing the new school meal standards and updating nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages in schools;
  • Make physical education and physical activity a priority for education;
  • Fully support healthy nutrition in federal food programs; and
  • Encourage full use of prevention health care services and provide support beyond a doctor's office.
These steps would help, but realize that we cannot count on government to solve the problem. It starts with parents promoting good nutrition at home, and setting an example. A child isn't likely to pay much attention if the parents are 50 pounds overweight.