Insulin shots can help diabetes control their illness, but lifestyle and diet play a huge role as well.

HAINES CITY – People who get diagnosed with diabetes, Judy Casingal is quick to note, should of course consultant their physician and take the proper medications needed to control this deadly illness.
But it’s also extremely important, she added, that they rely on a daily basis on someone else to help manage their diabetes: themselves.
“Leaving it in the hands of a physician and just popping a pill every day won’t help,” Casingal said. “They can’t do that. The disease will progress quickly if they’re not aware of the foundation and treatment of it and managing their meal plan – and exercise. This is the foundation of controlling diabetes.”
Casingal fully understands the important role that self-knowledge plays in combating diabetes, a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or because cells don’t respond to the insulin that’s being produced. If not managed properly, all forms of diabetes increase the risk of long-term complications.
Casingal is the coordinator of the Diabetes Wellness and Self Management Program at Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Haines City, which helps teach people how to manage their illness – and which recently received the prestigious American Diabetes Association Education Recognition Certificate for a quality diabetes self-management education program.
The classes – which started a little over a year ago – are ideal for patients who are newly diagnosed with diabetes, pre-diabetes or gestational diabetes, who are changing medications or have been living with diabetes for a long time. The program is led by Casingal, a certified diabetes educator, and includes three group sessions and a one-on-one session. Fees for the entire course are covered in Florida by most insurances.
“It’s a relatively new program,” said Linda Vendl, marketing manager for the hospital on U.S. 27 in Haines City.
But it’s a vital one, she added, since “Without that, people have a lot of complications from diabetes, and without understanding how to properly manage it, there are a lot of other health problems that can arise.”
The ADA’s Education Recognition Certificate is awarded for four years, and assures that educational programs meet the National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education Programs. Casingal said it was a terrific honor for the program to get this recognition and certification so soon after it was launched.
“I was absolutely thrilled,” she said. “It is a difficult thing to get, and it requires a tremendous amount of work and documentation and proving you are following all the standards. All my ducks had to be in a row.”
Casingal was hired when the program first started, and has been leading it ever since.
“The program was started here in September 2010,” she said. “I was hired to develop this program according to the standards of the American Diabetes Association, which are national standards developed to ensure that people with diabetes get quality teaching. I follow national standards – they are not my standards. It took about a year to gather all the data and ensure we had enough clients and documentation necessary to apply for this recognition. And once we achieved this recognition, it allows us to bill insurance companies such as Medicare and Medicaid for the hours for the program.”
To register for the program or learn more about it, patients can call 863-419-1677.
“The program itself is 10 hours,” Casingal said. “It involves four visits. One is a one hour assessment with me, and I talk with the patient about their diabetes and their family and their support system and their lifestyle, and what they want to accomplish with the program. Then we have four one-hour classes to learn about the ongoing management of the disease. We encourage them not to be frightened of using insulin, if that is what it takes, and we teach them signs and symptoms of the complications.”
What’s important for patients to recognize, she said, is that medication will not eliminate diabetes, just prevent the symptoms from getting worse.
“They can’t cure it, but they can keep it under control and keep the complications at bay,” Casingal said. “It is basically a self-managed disease.”
As Casingal noted, the American Diabetes Association reports that there are 25.8 million people — or 8.5 percent of the U.S. population — who have diabetes. While an estimated 18.8 million have been diagnosed, it’s believed that 7.0 million people are not aware they have this disease. Every day, up to 5,205 people across the nation are diagnosed with diabetes, and many of them first learn about it when they get treated for one of its life-threatening complications, such as heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and nerve disease.
“It’s everybody now,” Casingal said. “We have a national epidemic out there.”
Heart of Florida hospital is at 40100 U.S. 27, and is a 200-bed, acute care hospital serving the health care needs of Central Florida, with more than 200 physicians on staff covering 30 specialties.

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