CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Tuesday, March 28 is American Diabetes Association Alert Day. The annual day is deemed as a "wake-up call" for Americans to educate themselves about the seriousness of diabetes and encourages all to take the diabetes risk test to learn about their family’s medical history.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, at least 37.3 million American, or about 11.3% of the U.S. population has diabetes. In addition, about 8.5 million Americans are unaware they have the disease.
Ely Perez, senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Corpus Christi, was diagnosed with diabetes January 28, 2022.
"I was literally not going to make it," said Perez, "I ended up collapsing at the office, doctors drew my blood. They checked my numbers and everything, and that's when they found out I was 11.7 for my A1C test and a 252 in the sugars.”
Immediately after learning he had diabetes, Perez says he got involved with Texas A&M Corpus Christi's Diabetes Education Program. While participating, he was given a step by step process on how to maintain his glucose levels and transform his daily lifestyle.
"They told me to start out slowly, but I did a harder regime. I started fasting which is taking all the bad foods out and I started doing all the healthy things. I began walking three miles a day and I started doing aerobics, of all things," said Perez.
And with maintaining his health, Perez says he lost 50 pounds and has managed to keep the weight off for more than a year. In addition, he no longer has a need to use a glucose monitor every day to prick his finger. He says his family was his strong support team and encouraged him throughout the process.
"Now, my A1C number is 5.6," said Perez, "I came from dangerous, almost deadly numbers. But get this, now I’m not under any medication. I was able to do all of this within a year because I educated myself and I believed that I could make the change."
For others living with diabetes like Perez, The Coastal Bend Food Bank also offers assistance with the Diabetes Hands-On Self Management Program. It's an eight week series recognized with the American Diabetes Association. In the program, certified staff members will work directly with people who have diabetes, pre-diabetes, or those at risk for diabetes by teaching prevention and self-management skills. Classes are offered both during the morning and evening and are free.
You must pre-register before attending the class by calling 361-887-7979. The pre-registration deadlines are Tuesday, March 28 and Wednesday March 29, 2023.
The new series begins Tuesday, April 4 for evening class and Wednesday, April 5 for the morning class. It will be located at the Coastal Bend Food Bank-Nutrition Education Kitchen on 826 Krill St., Corpus Christi, Texas 78408.
Diabetes is not limited to one age group. More than 283,000 people under age 20 have the disease. According to medical data research, the Coastal Bend has counties with some of the highest number of people with diabetes.
Experts encourage people to not only maintain a healthy lifestyle with and without diabetes, but to also educate themselves on the risks associated with it such as heart disease.
For Ely Perez, he says it only took one moment for him to realize that he wanted to live a healthy life, not only for himself, but for his wife, kids and future grandchildren.
November is American Diabetes Month. Stay connected with KRIS 6 News or download the KRIS 6 News App for more information on how to raise awareness, find resources and ways to manage diabetes.