Loganville resident Marlene Cardeia said the hardest part about managing her Type 2 diabetes is eating the right types of food to maintain the levels of carbohydrates she intakes.

Cardeia’s diabetes means her body struggles to regulate the sugar in her blood after eating carbohydrate foods like breads, cereals, rice, pasta, fruits, milk and desserts. As someone who’s been living with the disease for roughly 30 years, Cardeia said she has a good understanding of portion control, but she’s sometimes surprised at the amounts of sugar she finds on some ingredient labels.

Cardeia also said she finds it difficult to find all of the information she needs to manage her Type 2 diabetes in one place. That’s one reason why she decided to be proactive and seek information at the Gwinnett County Community Health Fair at Lenora Park Recreation Center on Saturday. For Diabetes Awareness Month, vendors offered free blood pressure and blood glucose screenings for attendees. She also picked up some brochures from the Diabetes “You Can Win” Foundation’s booth.

“I want to be educated,” she said.

Cardeia admits that when she was first diagnosed she didn’t take the disease very seriously. She had heard about adult-onset diabetes. Her mother, brother and sister all were diagnosed with diabetes. She knew she would have to watch what she eats, but slowly realized it would be a constant struggle to manage for the rest of her life.

She had eye surgery and has some nerve damage in her arms and legs she attributes to not taking the disease seriously enough when she was initially diagnosed.

“It’s a complicated disease,” she said. “You can have a lot of side effects.”

Cardeia recommended people recently diagnosed with diabetes work with a nutritionist. She said taking medication to control her insulin levels has been easier to manage than daily injections, which can also carry side effects.

Blood glucose and blood pressure screenings are not only helpful to people currently living with diabetes, but also for those looking to prevent it. Sisters Cheryl and Delicia Illidge, both from Dacula, said they have a family history of the disease. Their mother and aunt both died from complications of the disease. Their aunt’s diabetes symptoms were so out of hand that one of her legs was amputated.

“That made us concerned that we need to take care of our health,” Cheryl said. “We need to do some things to be sure that we don’t go down that path.”

Cheryl and Delicia were both being screened for glucose elves at Four Corners Primary Care’s booth on Saturday. Cheryl encouraged people with a history of diabetes in their families to be proactive about managing their diets as early as possible. Witnessing what her aunt and mother went through changed her approach to being healthy.

Constance Martinez of Dacula wanted to participate in free screenings to find out from Four Corners if she needed medication or further evaluation from a doctor. She was surprised to learn about the complications that could result from diabetes before gathering information at the health fair. It could lead to complications with eyes, kidneys and brain.

“It can cause a lot of complication with your health,” she said. “I think the most important thing is your food.”

The health fair at Lenora Park is the last SCNI (which is the parent company of the Daily Post) event of the year. It offered free screenings and information from roughly 60 for-profit and nonprofit vendors. SCNI also announced the 2020 event calendar and the slate of health fairs at Georgia Pierce, Bogan, Lenora, Rhodes Jordan and Best Friend parks.

“We’re offering a lot of free screenings for the community,” SCNI Director of Events Noreen Brantner said. “That’s what it’s all about.”