REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- It's been five years since Marj Ogles, a volunteer at the Thrift Shop, began getting dizzy and noticed her balance was a little off. But when she went to the doctor, the diagnosis wasn't quite what she expected - diabetes.

"It was a shock," said Ogles, who now takes a break from her volunteering at the jewelry counter at the Thrift Shop for her 10 a.m. snack to keep her blood glucose in check. "We didn't have it in the family. This was adult onset. I didn't have the background I thought I had to have to get it."

More than 23 million children and adults across the country suffer from diabetes, with approximately 1.6 million cases diagnosed in people 20 years and older each year. Each month Fox Army Health Center reaches out to those coping with the disease with diabetic management seminars, and on Oct. 30 some 67 members of Team Redstone banded together to participate in the American Diabetes Association's Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes at the Huntsville Botanical Garden.

"Diabetes is epidemic," said Tamiriz Centeno, HIV/Infectious Disease program manager in Preventive Medicine at Fox. "Diabetes can be prevented. Diabetes does not discriminate -- affecting all classes, ages, gender and cultures. Redstone Arsenal is a multicultural community where people work, live and play. The diabetes walk was meant to mobilize and inspire the Redstone Arsenal community to understand the devastating toll that diabetes takes on millions of people across our nation. A walk for diabetes is a chance for the Redstone community to get together and involved, raise awareness, and promote healthy living and prevent diabetes."

Fox holds diabetic management seminars monthly, with a two-day seminar the first Wednesday and Thursday of each month, and a one-day seminar held the third Thursday of each month. The seminars are designed to empower patients to be an active participant in their healthcare, providing them with the information needed to manage their diabetes. Topics include diabetic eye disease, nutrition, blood glucose monitoring, medications, foot and dental care, long and short-term complications, exercise, coping strategies, and pathophysiology.

"Knowledge is the key to helping individuals manage their diabetes," said Valerie Francis, nurse educator in the preventive medicine department at Fox.

Heart disease death rates and risk for stroke is approximately two to four times higher for adults with diabetes as opposed to those without. And that is just the beginning of health complications that often accompany the disease, including glaucoma, high blood pressure and hearing loss.

"Individuals need to be educated about their diabetes to assist them in being better self-care managers," Francis said. "If an individual does not manage their diabetes well, it can lead to irreversible complications that can negatively impact their quality of life."

As for Ogles, a self-diagnosed "chocaholic," while the sweets are tempting, she knows when it's time to say no and the tricks she must use to keep her health in check, like eating a snack each day at 10 a.m. or bringing in a healthy soup to parties otherwise dominated by sugary goodies at the Thrift Shop. She eats six times a day and checks her blood glucose three times daily.

"I feel like I'm managing it well," Ogles said. "You try and control it. Of course you're going to slip up, but don't berate yourself. It happens."

The family-like atmosphere at the Thrift Shop also helps her cope with the disease.
"I stay busy and I think it helps with the diabetes," Ogles said. "I know other people with it and there's a camaraderie there."