The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) convention in Philadelphia is just around the corner. In preparation for this event, I have been thinking about diabetes in the U.S. and how much progress has been made since I became an RD more than 30 years ago. In 1980 there were 5.8 million diabetics, which grew to 20.9 million in 2011 — about 8% of the U.S. population.

Back then, there were fewer treatment options and diabetics were more restricted from activities in which they could participate. It’s true that the “cost” of diabetes is high – not just in economic terms but also in overall health. Many diabetics have complications and health problems that decrease the quality of life and increase the risk of death.

Having diabetes does not mean giving up the things you love to do. A few years ago, I went on a group dive trip, and one of the members had type 1 diabetes and was on an insulin pump. She did not let diabetes stop her from doing the things she loved to do – travel and scuba dive. She was so confident of her ability to control her diabetes that she went diving in Fiji! How did she do it? She knew what her blood sugar levels should be so she wouldn’t become hypoglycemic. She tested her blood sugar before each dive and, if it was not high enough, she ate some carbohydrates to bring it up. Just in case she became hypoglycemic, she carried glucose gel in a tube, which she could use underwater if necessary. How inspiring!

To learn more about diabetes, the scope of the problems and new treatments, check out the 14 Nutrition Dimension courses on ContinuingEducation.com/Diabetes. If you will be in Philadelphia at the AADE convention, stop by booth 506 and say hello. Meeting clients is one of my favorite parts of this job.