Ella Kliger – Contributing Writer

“More than 95 percent of diabetic care is in the clients’ hands. Not in the doctor’s, or the nurse’s or the health educator’s, but in the patient’s.  What they do when they leave is what matters most,” said  Scott  Thurman, a pharmacist in Cashiers who is also a Certified Diabetes Educator who volunteers at Community Care Clinic in Highlands.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, from 2 to 5 p.m., at the church on Brendle Road, Pastor Glenn Marshall and the Seventh Day Adventists will host a program about the prevention and management of diabetes through lifestyle changes. Dr. Phil Collins of Fletcher, will lead the program.  In this three-part program, part one will address ‘Why is there an epidemic of diabetes?’ The statistics are not going down, and doctors are finding a lot of undiagnosed people. Then, the program will cover the causes of diabetes and whether there something we can do about them, followed by practical applications of lifestyle medicine.

There is a connection between lifestyle changes, nutrition counseling, and the reduction of the incidence and symptoms of diabetes. According to Thurman, 80 percent of newly diagnosed patients are overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or more. Some are obese, morbidly obese, with high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

“Weight loss trumps most everything towards improving health. Weight loss and exercise can improve very high blood sugar. Sometimes, after losing weight, blood sugar returns to normal,” said Thurman. “I typically spend an hour in the clinic with a patient. We do limited blood work, foot screens, medication adjustments, and an education component. With everything that needs to be covered, I don’t know how physicians do it in 15 or 20 minutes. If you only focus on blood sugar, and not on blood pressure and cholesterol, you’re missing two thirds of the picture.”

Marshall has firsthand experience with how lifestyle changes can improve health. Before Marshall was a pastor, he was an anesthetist for 22 years.

“When I was looking for a house in Franklin, we ate at the Boiler Room, and you know that ramp you use to go in? That small ramp left me with a pounding in my chest. There was a history of serious illness in my family. My doctor suggested that I have open heart surgery. With my medical background, I knew what to expect. I said, ‘I’m not going to join your zipper club.’”

That doctor’s visit was a wake up call for Marshall.  “I went home and I was still fragile there. I had chest pressure sometimes in the pulpit. I changed the way I ate and in six weeks I was back at the doctor’s office. I had lost 20 pounds, my cholesterol had dropped from 218 to 140, and this was before I started exercising. Three months later, another 10 pounds lighter, my cholesterol was 120.” said Marshall. “This class with Dr. Collins is not just for diabetics. It is a natural health seminar about lifestyle change that deals with diabetes, and other issues like a family history of heart disease.” Marshall continued, ”I’ve been going to Dr. Collins for about a year, and made a lot of the lifestyle changes. Last Saturday afternoon, we had a picnic, we were up in Cherokee and we walked up Clingman’s Dome. That’s a whole lot more than the ramp! No chest pain, I didn’t stop to rest, I just kept going,” said Marshall.

Susan Combs is a member of the Seventh Day Adventists who heads up the Health Ministries. “It’s come to our attention that diabetes is reaching a pandemic stage in the U.S., even children 12 or 13 years old are being diagnosed with late onset diabetes. In many cases, it’s the lifestyle that creates the problem. Some people are predisposed to diabetes, and by changing their lifestyle, the health problems can be reduced. We think it would be of great benefit to the community to present programs that show how you can adjust your diet and lifestyle for healthier outcomes,” Combs said. “You’re still going to be able to shop at Ingles and Bi-Lo. This class is going to demonstrate how your choices affect your health.”

“You don’t have to be diabetic, pre-diabetic or have a family history of diabetes to gain something from  listening to Dr. Collins. This program can help people with heart disease,  high cholesterol, obesity, all associated conditions. By changing your diet and when you eat your meals, you can improve your health without drugs,” said Combs. “When people are in an unhealthy body, they may not able to think clearly, their thinking can be muddled. When we’re healthy, it improves the thinking process so that you can understand spiritual things better.”

Marshall echoed Combs’ sentiment. “When you think of it, we believe in health. We communicate through our minds. If my body is healthy, my mind is healthy. If my body is cloudy, my mind is cloudy. That health level or cloudiness affects our relationship with God.”  This relationship between the body, the mind, and God is part of the reason that the Seventh Day Adventists are planning a series of community health classes in 2017.

“I facilitate the classes,” Combs explained. “We are lucky enough to have access to doctors and experts that do the teaching of the classes. In 2017, we will hold a six-week seminar, with videos, samples of food, and recipes. It will go much more in depth than what Dr. Collins can cover in three hours. We’ll provide another cooking class over seven weeks. For the summer and fall, we are putting together a nine-week depression seminar. We are trying to do programs that reach the community and help them improve their health, mentally and physically.”

”I’m excited about lifestyle change. When you know something good, you hate to keep it to yourself,” Marshall concluded.

For more information about the class, call Susan Combs at 828-371-7223.