HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — November marks Diabetes Awareness Month, and Valley Baptist Health Systems is offering help to the people in the Rio Grande Valley.

MaryJane Lopez, registered nurse and Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville diabetes program coordinator/educator, said there’s no time like the present for local residents with diabetes to take control of their health.

“There is a high prevalence of diabetes here in the Rio Grande Valley, and an alarming incidence of pre-diabetes with individuals who don’t even know that they are at risk,” said Lopez.

Through the VBMC diabetes centers in Harlingen and Brownsville, patients have the opportunity to receive diabetes self-management education for type 1, type 2, and/or gestational diabetes in individual, personalized sessions.

Patients will receive up to four sessions, with one session including one-on-one time with a registered dietitian, said the news release.

The information is offered in both English and Spanish.

Steps to help prevent diabetes

Lifestyle changes can be made to prevent the onset of the disease in the first place.

Prediabetes is a warning sign that blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, the VBMC news release said.

Health professionals say the ways to prevent prediabetes include:

  • Eat healthily and choose foods low in sugar, fat, and calories and high in fiber. Eat fewer refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and pasta. Instead, focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Stay active with five brisk 30-minute walks or two cardio-intensive exercise classes each week.
  • Weight Loss, if you are overweight. Give yourself a goal of 5 to 7 percent of your body weight (that’s just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person). Once you’ve reached your goal, maintain, and enjoy the health benefits.
  • Stop smoking. Prediabetes is just one of the numerous health risks of smoking.
  • Take medications as needed. If you are at high risk, your doctor can recommend medications that can help control cholesterol and high blood pressure.

For more information on VBMC-Brownsville’s Diabetes Center, call 956-698-5602. In Harlingen, call 956-389-1119.