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UNLV Department Aims to Teach the Community About Diabetes

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UNLV’s nutrition and science department wants the community to know about a disease that affects over 8 percent of the U.S population.

For the past year and a half, the department has tried to educate the community about the disease by offering various diabetes awareness and prevention series.

Diabetes causes the body the inability to produce any, or an insufficient amount, of insulin. This causes elevated levels of glucose in the blood.

The disease has been on the rise in the U.S.

According to the American Diabetes Association’s website, 25.8 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, accounting for 8.3 percent of the country’s population.

Registered dietician and UNLV graduate assistant Christina Vergara Aleshire, said that the diabetes workshops have been a reoccurrence for over a year and a half.

Organizers have tried various ways to showcase their workshops, Aleshire said.

Their efforts have included advertisements in the Student Union and setting up booths twice a week around campus.

Even though the disease affects so many, Aleshire said, student attendance and involvement has been grim.

“There’s no real reason that you can pinpoint as to why the attendance is the way it is,” Aleshire said.

If people knew about these seminars, they would want to go, but their advertisement efforts have not been as fruitful as they could be, Aleshire said.

Nikola Trajkovski has been a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 4. He is a nutrition science major. He was Aleshire’s student and led the diabetes classes during the spring semester.

His classes consisted of the basic understanding of what the disease is, and how to either control or prevent it.

Under Type 1 diabetes, the body attacks the cells that produce insulin—a “storage” hormone that helps carry glucose, or sugar, out of the blood stream and into other cells in the body. Children are often diagnosed with it.

Insulin must be present for glucose to get from the bloodstream to the cells.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder where the body does produce insulin, but does not use it efficiently.

People, 35 years of age or older, are more susceptible and more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. However, unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 is preventable.

“There will always be sugar in the blood, but you don’t want an excessive amount,” Trajkovski said. “Compare it to swimming in water versus swimming in mud.”

He also explained various ways of how to live with the disease.

One of the key components in living a healthy life with diabetes is to exercise, and keep track of food consumption, Trajkovski said.

Being aware of the amount of carbohydrates one consumes is also important because carbohydrates turn into glucose.

“A lot of people will look at the sugar content, but it’s important to look at the carbohydrates as well,” Trajkovski said. “The reality is that something can have a high amount of carbs, which at the moment isn’t sugar, but it’ll eventually turn into glucose.”

Aleshire said that learning about this disease and ways to prevent it is important.

“It (diabetes) can lead to all other sorts of things,” she said. “Learning how to control and prevent it is important, especially in someone’s life. The more you know, the better for sure.”

The Rod Lee Bigelow Health Sciences (BHS), room 212, has become the official nutrition center of UNLV, Aleshire said.

The center has staff available to answer specific questions and to offer suggestions.

For more information, visit www.unlv.edu/event/unlv-nutrition-center-motivational-mondays.

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