During the entire month of April, Channel 5 News will be bringing you a wide range of stories about diabetes, including its prevalence in the Valley and treatment options.
For a look at free diabetes screenings throughout the Valley during the month of April, visit our Heart of the Valley Diabetes page.
Marisa Rivera has been managing Type 2 diabetes for about 20 years. She was diagnosed in her mid 40’s, and admits it hasn’t always been easy.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 37 million Americans, or about one in 10 people, have diabetes.
In the Rio Grande Valley, the UT Health School of Public Health Brownsville estimates one in three people are diabetic.
People are either diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is less common and typically diagnosed at an early age.
“Basically what happens is your pancreas stops working and so then you’re not able to produce insulin,” said Dr. Chris Casso.
Type 1 diabetics need to take insulin every day to survive, but that’s not necessarily the case for Type 2 diabetics.
According to the CDC, between 90 and 95 percent of people have Type 2 diabetes. This is when your pancreas are producing insulin, but your body is not responding to it, so your blood sugar levels don’t stay at normal levels.
This was Rivera’s case, who takes two medications daily to manage her diabetes.
“You do have to take the medications in order to control the insulin in your system, but you also have to eat well and exercise,” Rivera said.
Doctors want to remind you that everyone’s diabetes is different.
"In terms of Type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t mean that you have to be on medication…I have some patients who manage their diabetes just with exercise and nutrition,” Dr. Casso said.
These days, Rivera is happy she’s found the best way to manage her diabetes. She hopes others in her community take the time to see a doctor if they suspect they could be diabetic.
“Get an annual check-up. Just find out…am I or am I not?" Dr. Casso said. “Know your disease. Become as knowledgeable about it as you can so you can manage it, as well because ultimately, it’s up to the patient to be able to manage it and control it.”