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When Sugar is Not So Sweet

When Sugar is Not So Sweet

Whether you were born with diabetes or recently diagnosed, the North Oaks Diabetes Education program can help you manage your disease and change your life.

Your physician can refer you to the program, and many insurance plans (including Medicare) help cover the cost of diabetes education. For individual policy coverage, contact your insurance carrier. To enroll, call North Oaks Scheduling at (985) 230-7777 or (225) 686-4899.

Using the diabetes management skills he learned through the program, North Oaks Diabetes Education patient Phil Totara was able to lose 35 pounds. Before his weight loss, he would have to take breaks after mowing his lawn for 15 minutes. Today, his daily exercise plan includes walking 4 miles, followed by time on an elliptical machine and bicycling. “I put together a program to fit my needs with the help of North Oaks Diabetes Education,” Phil explains.

“The program is a blessing ... truly a godsend,” shares 63-year-old Phil Totora of Independence. “I didn’t know that my diabetes taxes my blood pressure, heart, eyesight and kidneys. These are things I needed to learn.”

Three years ago, Phil was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. With a referral from his primary care physician, Phil enrolled in the North Oaks Diabetes Education program, which is recognized nationally by the American Diabetes Association for Quality Self-Management Education and offered in Hammond and Livingston.

The first step for Phil in learning how to control his condition was a consultation with North Oaks Diabetes Education Coordinator Debora Jones. With his wife by his side, Phil received:

  • A diabetes self-management skills assessment
  • A personalized plan for checking blood sugars and medications 1 cup
  • Blood glucose monitoring and meter information
  • An explanation of how to read his diabetes test results
  • A foot screening and foot care information.

Next, Phil met with Registered Dietitian Virginia Pelegrin for a nutritional assessment and help in creating a customized meal plan. The Diabetes Education team also offers follow-up sessions by phone or in person to monitor program participants’ progress. Group classes in diabetes basics and nutrition also are offered.

The program also helped 62-year-old Susan Lorio of Walker get her type 2 diabetes under control with help from the North Oaks Diabetes Education program. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 4 years ago.

“I was always concerned with counting sugars. I learned that it’s really about the carbs,” Susan explains. “Now I’ve adjusted my diet, read food labels and exercise more.”

North Oaks offers free Diabetes Support Group Meetings, which are open to anyone with diabetes and their families and friends (no physician referral necessary). Phil rarely misses the monthly meetings. “The guest speakers provide really useful tips and information,” he explains. “The support group meetings provide life-saving information. I can’t say enough how important it is to get involved,“ Phil continues.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot produce enough of a hormone called insulin to process sugar. This causes an unhealthy build up of glucose, a by-product of sugar, within the bloodstream. There are two main types. Type 2 diabetes usually develops later in life and is the most common form of the disease. Type 1 affects only 5 percent of diabetics and usually occurs in younger patients.

Common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Tiredness.

“Diabetes is extremely common in Southeast Louisiana,” Debora Jones, coordinator of North Oaks Diabetes Education, affirms. “Many people try to save money by purchasing less costly processed food or fast food, but these choices complicate the problem.”

How Can You Control Your Diabetes?

By working closely with your health care team, diabetic patients can maintain ideal health.

Rules of thumb for diabetics include:

  • Keeping your blood pressure under control
  • Controlling the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. This can be done through diet, exercise and in some cases, medication.
  • Keeping your feet healthy, clean and well-groomed. Diabetes can cause nerve damage that may lead to complications.
  • Taking care of your eyes and getting routine eye exams. Diabetics are at a higher risk for conditions like macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.

Nationally Recognized Team

Nationally-recognized diabetes care is available at North Oaks Physician Group. Northshore Internal Medicine Associates has been recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) for excellence in caring for patients with diabetes. Drs. Charles Ducombs, Susan Zacharia, Jay Kumar and William Plunkett, pictured above, consistently have helped their diabetic patients stay healthier by delivering the highest level of care.

To schedule an appointment with the diabetes experts at Northshore Internal Medicine Associates, call (985) 230-7675. For more information on how the NCQA measures quality, visit