Community trailblazer discusses the state of affairs in diabetes management and care: encouraging but with work still to be done.

Community trailblazer discusses the state of affairs in diabetes management and care: encouraging but with work still to be done.

Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas - Diabetes Management SpeakerThe Howell Foundation hosted Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas, as the key note speaker for the first luncheon of the year. An endocrinologist by training, she has been involved with the diabetic underserved community for the past 20 years.  “I am incredibly passionate about how important education is in order to empower the individual to be able to care of their own disease (and diabetes management).”

Bringing awareness on our country’s health, and its relationship to diabetes management.

Simply put, diabetes is having too much sugar in your blood that creates dangerous health complications.  It is no secret that obesity is often correlated to diabetes.  What is alarming is the rising epidemic of obesity. “The number of states that now have a rate of diabetes greater than 10% is growing, and we are finding that even type one diabetes is probably associated in some way.”

Diabetes Management Chart - Percent of US that is ObeseNational statistics show that, at least as of 2017, there were about 30 million people with diabetes, and other 86 million with pre-diabetes. Together, it’s a full one third of the nation’s population! In California, almost 10% of the population has type one or type two diabetes.  One of every three patients hospitalized throughout California has diabetes, typically uncovered by other events such as heart attacks, pneumonia or some other condition that was driven by the disease, and that hasn’t been controlled for a number of years.  Leading health organizations have a screening test for individuals to test the possibility of diabetes. Dr. Tsimikas recommends talking to your physician about it.

Significant components to prevent or manage the diabetes are to lead a healthy lifestyle and provide individuals with an education program that allows comprehensive knowledge about the disease. Case in point: in a NIH/CDC-funded, year-long research trial, results showed that 60% of individuals with high risk for diabetes could actually prevent it with lifestyle changes.

Additional talking points included:

  • The two main factors to consider when thinking about diabetes are that there is a genetic pre-disposition to diabetes, and that age plays a role in the development of the illness.
  • Diabetes is usually a gender specific disease, slightly higher in men than in women. Having said that, gestational diabetes should be an aspect pregnant women need to monitor.
  • According to Dr. Tsimikas, it is estimated that a little over 11% of physicians tell their patients that they may be pre-diabetic. “The need for self-advocacy is of upmost importance” comments Carolyn Wells.  “Taking a proactive approach towards one’s health based on information is what makes the Howell presentations so valuable.
  • The occurrence of heart-related diseases and stroke in women are exacerbated due to a diabetic condition. With diabetes, the protection premenopausal women enjoy significantly diminishes.
  • Diabetes can lead to kidney failure, amputations, and ultimately hyperglycemia, a condition where excessive amount of glucose circles the body through the blood.
  • As for diabetes and nutrition, carbs are drivers of high blood sugars. Half your plate should have vegetables, a quarter, starch (which will be converted into sugar) and a quarter protein.
  • Diabetes should be addressed with portion control, exercise and medication.


Self-advocacy is the name of the game: people taking their condition to heart and the role a lifestyle plays in our health.

Rachel Solenberger - Diabetes Management Guest SpeakerLuncheon guest Rachel Solenberger couldn’t agree more:  she needed to change her lifestyle to reduce her high risk of diabetes.   Her recommendations are concise and to the point.  She started here diabetes management plan by finding a diet that helped eliminate cravings by focusing on whole and unprocessed foods. She looks to avoid added sugar, soy and chemicals in canned/prepared foods.  “It’s about being able to pronounce the ingredients in labels.”  With the help of a functional health coach to fine tune a diet that best works for her, Rachel cooks healthier meals by incorporating more vegetables and plant based proteins.  She not only feels better, but has managed to lose and keep weight off. She had learned through searching scientific-based information about how the standard American diet with processed and fast foods has greatly contributed to obesity and other health epidemics.

There’s and APP for that.

The use of digital technology has played a pivotal rule in diabetes management.  It is done by a sensor inserted just underneath the skin that continuously measures the level of glucose in the blood. This allows both patient and physician to digitally monitor and act should a diabetic issue arise.  Dr. Tsimikas’ research showed that via texts, communities were better at diabetes management.  As of today, the group headed by Dr. Tsimikas and funded by the NIH is developing a series of algorithms that will tailor the information collected from the patient with specific actions to manage and control diabetes.  She is developing a color-based (Green-yellow-red) dashboard that tells both patient and physician how well diabetes is managed.

A passionate advocate for diabetes and its effect on the community, Dr. Tsimikas believes that members of the community should be included and engaged at all levels of research: “The researcher alone should not be coming up with the idea, the hypothesis, and go out and test it on a community.”  She sees her role as an educator in the community and seeks to create an understanding on how research is done, how important the outcome can be, and more importantly, bring the community on board to defeat diabetes to get communities as healthy as possible.



The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research has been dedicated to keeping the women we love healthy by making a long-term, positive impact on women’s health.  It is the premier organization advancing women’s health.

The organization does so by:

  •  Awarding undergraduate research scholarships and graduate nursing research grants to scientists researching issues affecting women’s health,
  • Presenting the latest medical research findings at our events and t hrough our Speaker Service progam, where experts and researchers convey timely timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families,
  • Funding research initiatives geared towards improving the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community; bringing women’s health research to a full cycle.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ###


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