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Diabetes cases grow, but healthy diet can help

If you are older than 60, you are in the crosshairs of what the New York State Department of Health calls "the most rapidly growing chronic disease of our time."

About 25 percent of people older than 60 have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. But a diagnosis of diabetes doesn't mean a death sentence. Although there is no cure, diet and exercise can keep it under control. And contrary to many misconceptions, you don't have to give up all the foods you love.

"There's this idea that there's such a thing as a diabetes diet," says Donna Moodie, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. "In general, a diabetes diet is a heart-healthy diet, which everybody should be following."

Moodie teaches diabetics how to keep their blood sugar within target ranges by following a sensible diet plan. She advises them how to read food labels and, most important, gives them the techniques to count carbohydrates.

"People have misconceptions that you can never have a cookie or you can never have fruit or anything that tastes sweet," Moodie says. "But they learn from carbohydrate counting that they can have small portions of the 'forbidden foods.' "

Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Suffolk Department of Health Services are holding several diabetes-management courses over the next few weeks. Each class is part of a four-week series taught by a dietitian and a nurse. The classes are aimed at community residents with diabetes or anyone who cares for a diabetic.

Where courses will be offered:

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. HEALTH CENTER, Wyandanch, Wednesdays, 1:30-3:30 p.m., beginning March 10

TRI-COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER, Amityville, Thursdays, 5:30-7:30 p.m., starting March 11

CORNELL COOPERATIVE EXTENSION, Riverhead, Wednesdays, 5:30-7:30 p.m., beginning March 17

NORTH BROOKHAVEN HEALTH CENTER, Coram, Tuesdays, 9:30-11:30 a.m., starting March 23

SOUTH BROOKHAVEN FAMILY HEALTH CENTER EAST, Shirley, Tuesdays 3-5 p.m., beginning March 23

SOUTH BROOKHAVEN FAMILY HEALTH CENTER, Patchogue, classes in Spanish, Tuesdays 9:30-11:30 a.m., starting April 6

Classes are free, but registration is required. Call 631-727-7850, ext. 340. For other upcoming classes, go to ccesuffolk.org/health-calendar.

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