Insulindependence can be a game changer in the area of diabetes self-management
As part of our efforts to raise awareness about health and wellness opportunities, your My Healthy Lifestyle will, from time to time, provide information on a variety of resources not only within Riverside but also throughout the community. Information on community resources does not represent an endorsement of the product, service, program, organization or activity involved. It is simply a way to get the word out to more people.
The following interview with Sarah Younger, MD, is one such example. Through a question and answer interview, Dr. Younger describes the organization, Insulindependence and its commitment to improved self-management for individuals with Type 1 diabetes. This information also has relevance to individuals with Type 2 diabetes, one of the top five health conditions among our Riverside employees.
Q. How would you describe the Insulindependence organization?
A. Let me offer a little background first. People with Type 1 diabetes, many of whom get the disease when they're young, have faced a lot of physical limitations in the past. Most of it was related to managing blood sugar levels. Fortunately, better insulin delivery and monitoring systems have made a very positive impact in that area. So now, when Type 1 diabetes is managed properly, and exercise is a critical part of that management, those limitations go away.
The exercise and improved fitness components are at the heart of Insulindependence. It's part of the group's mission to improve and even revolutionize diabetes management.
Q. So Insulindependence is a fitness group?
A. Fitness and exercise are big part of it, but it's really a lot more than that. On one level Insulindependence is a peer support group that carries out most of the support through real-world experiences and activities. Everybody gains something from active living and people with diabetes gain even more. It's personally beneficial and it's also socially responsible to stay as fit and healthy as possible. That's especially true when you have a lifelong chronic disease. You've got to take advantage of every resource that's out there.
Q. What level of fitness are we talking about?
A. The group encourages people to get involved no matter what their past experience is with active living. So we run the gamut from couch potatoes to triathletes. And there is no age limit so everyone from young teens to seniors can participate. When we have activities, people tend to gravitate to other people who are at a similar level.
Q. What kind of activities?
A. There are a number of national events but closer to home we have a monthly event we call the Dawn Phenom. It's a community fitness gathering that's led by volunteers. That's one of the things I get involved in. What we do here is walk the Noland Trail together. There are dozens of Insulindependence chapters throughout the country so a group in another region may be doing something different, something that fits into their particular area.
We get some good exercise on the trail but we also have an opportunity to socialize and just have fun. That's really the goal – to work at your own pace toward a higher level of fitness with help from your peers – and to have a good time while you do it.
Q. How did you get involved with the group?
A. My interest in Insulindependence is on a couple of different levels. To begin with, I have Type 1 diabetes, the form of the disease that requires insulin intake. I was diagnosed in my early forties, which isn't exactly rare but isn't typical, either. Type 1 used to be called juvenile diabetes because that's where most of the diagnoses show up. What was helpful for me is that exercise was already a big part of my life. So when I learned what Insulindependence was doing, it fit right into my approach to diabetes management as well as my approach to life. So now I take part in activities in this area and I'm also a member of the national volunteer board of directors.
The other part of it is that, as an internal medicine physician, I have patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. So I want to be able to be as supportive and informed as I can regarding their personal diabetes journey. I want to know every possible source that could be helpful with regard to improved management.
Q. Is there any conflict between the goals of Insulindependence and conventional medicine?
A. Not at all. The group has been involved in research collaborations and has a national network of clinical partners within the medical community. Along with making good choices about nutrition and medications, exercise is an absolutely essential part of managing diabetes both in the area of blood sugar levels and general fitness. What Insulindependence does is support a good idea and take it even further. And I would add, in a lot more enjoyable way.
Q. Where do you see Insulindependence heading in the future?
A. The organization is growing and fairly quickly. The programs have been highlighted in the New York Times, US News & World Report and Triathlete Magazine, as well as in network TV coverage. So there's definitely a lot of forward momentum. I think the increased awareness is going to be very helpful in extending outreach programs and reaching more people, which is what really matters when it comes to organizational growth.
Q. What do you think are the most important benefits the group has to offer?
A. One of the real hallmarks of Insulindependence is that it doesn't take a preaching-teaching approach to educating people about the importance of exercise in managing diabetes. The focus is on mentoring and you'll see it among participants of all ages, not just between older and younger members. I think the whole interactive model, the idea of getting individuals together for what they can share and accomplish together is the key to why it appeals to people. It also offers a way to develop lasting friendships.
But if I had to call out a single benefit it would be inspiration. People with diabetes are inspired to do things they might have thought weren't possible. They have a chance to confront the fears and the obstacles that used to limit what they could do. That kind of thing goes a long way toward enhancing self-image. And ultimately, it helps lead to improved self-management of diabetes and a higher quality of life. That's what inspiration can do.
For more information visit Insulindependence.org. For details on local Insulindependence activities and programs – including the next Dawn Phenom, 8 am, September 29, at the Noland Trail parking lot (look for orange balloons) – please contact Dr. Sarah Younger at VAinsulindependence@gmail.com.
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