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Defense Against Diabetes is working 'to reverse and stop damage from happening.'

Courtesy of Sabrina Weaver

Sabrina Weaver is a nurse in Columbia and created the non-profit, Defense Against Diabetes, which works with people with diabetes, as well as people before they get diabetes – helping them establish new, healthier habits.

She spoke about the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, how both of these can impact children and families and about how preventing diabetes in the first place can help improve people’s long-term health.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.

Sabrina Weaver: I work with individuals who are considered pre-diabetic. So, that's before they have [an] official Type 2 diabetes diagnosis and work with them on lifestyle modification to help prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

And then I also do classes with individuals who do have Type 2 diabetes.

So, Type 1 is considered an autoimmune disease, and so your body is unable to create insulin. Usually it's diagnosed in children, but adults, more adults are being diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic.

Whereas Type 2, it's more related to diet and lifestyle. Typically, your Type 2 diabetics are overweight, they're pretty sedentary and they usually will have some other type of chronic illness, as well – like high blood pressure, heart disease and things of that nature.

It tends to run in families – people think it's a genetic, but it's, a lot of it stems from you're doing all the same things as everybody else did before you, so nothing is changing. So, you're gonna inherently have some of the same behaviors.

We’re to content with not feeling good, like “I'm always tired, but I'm not willing to do anything to not be tired.”

So unfortunately, it takes a lot of people – they've had a heart attack, they've had a stroke, “now we're cutting off the toe, which is now going to lead to your foot.”

I don't… that's the hard part for me. It's like why does it take something so drastic to be a wakeup call because now at this point, you've had damage that we can't replace, and so now we have a new way of living and it's not ideal, but now we have to try to make the best of what we have. So...

The reason why I started the program was I was originally trying to find something for youth who were Type 2 diabetics because there's a lot of resources for Type 1 diabetics, but we're getting more and more children who are Type 2 diabetics.

It used to be you were in your 50s, 60s, 70s before you became diabetic, but then we've become more sedentary. Food is sometimes used to pacify children. It’s like, “Oh, here just have this.”

So, a lot more children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and the thing issue with that is they can't take the majority of the medications because they aren’t tested on children. So, your only option is insulin – which trying to get a 10-year-old to get themselves insulin, it's like, “I'm not sticking myself.”

And with that, there have been higher incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, which then puts them at risk of having a heart attack at a younger age – in their 20s and their 30s – and all the chronic, all the other issues that come with it, having kidney disease, being on dialysis.

So it's like, the younger that you have it, the more complications you're going to end up with just because it's a chronic disease, and so, it's like, trying to reverse and stop damage from happening.

And so everyone needs to be concerned about it – like the whole family should be concerned about it because it's never too young to start healthy practices.

Dominique Hodge is a junior at the University of Missouri studying cross-platform editing and producing. She is a reporter/producer for KBIA's Missouri Health Talks.
Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.