November 01, 2015
About 29.1 million people in the United States, or around 9.3 percent of the population, have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While diabetes is such a prevalent disease, it’s also manageable and often preventable.
“Preventing and managing diabetes requires a concentrated effort, but it absolutely can be done,” said Rosemary Thuet, RN, MSN, director of education at MountainView Hospital.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that results in patients having too much glucose in their blood. There are four types of diabetes, and each has a different cause.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes typically occurs in children or young adults, although in rare cases, adults can be diagnosed as well. “Type 1 diabetes is usually caused by some sort of damage to the pancreas; it’s not caused by lifestyle choices,” Thuet said.
People who have Type 1 diabetes are unable to produce enough, or any, insulin in their pancreas. Without insulin, they’re can’t regulate blood glucose levels properly and almost always are insulin dependent as a result. The American Diabetes Association reports that only 5 percent of diabetics have Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes typically is diagnosed in adults between the ages of 30 and 60. It is caused by an inactive lifestyle, poor diet and nutrition and overeating.
While patients with Type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin, patients with Type 2 diabetes become insulin resistant, meaning their bodies are unable to use insulin properly, causing dangerous spikes in blood glucose levels.
“Most patients with Type 2 diabetes are able to manage it by taking pills, but in some cases, they are insulin dependent as well,” Thuet said. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and almost always is preventable.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy, usually around the 24th week. Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnancy hormones prevent insulin from doing its job properly, leading to high blood glucose levels. As long as it is treated and monitored, gestational diabetes rarely affects the mother or child beyond pregnancy.
Prediabetes is a condition is which patients’ blood glucose is too high but not high enough to be considered Type 2 diabetes. Left unaddressed, prediabetes can become diabetes in 10 years or less.
“Patients are tested for pre-diabetes using the A1C blood test, which tells you what the blood sugar average is over the span of three months,” Thuet said.
Who is at risk for type 2 diabetes?
- People who are overweight and/or inactive
- Some ethnicities, including Hispanics, African-Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Alaska natives
- People with heart problems, high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- People with a family history
- People with certain body types. “People who tend to carry weight in their abdomen – spoon-shaped people – are more like to develop diabetes than people who carry weight in their hips and thighs – pear-shaped people,” Thuet said.
Living with diabetes
In most cases, diabetes can be successfully managed in people who are motivated and committed to their health. It’s important that patients with diabetes constantly monitor their blood glucose levels, take their prescribed medications and have a team of specialists, such as podiatrists, optometrists and nutritionists, to help reduce complications.
Alert your dentist
“Patients with diabetes also need to alert their dentist, because they’ll have more bacteria in their mouths, which can cause problems,” Thuet said.
Practice healthy eating
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet free of refined sugar, watching portion size and keeping a regular eating schedule can help. Certain exercises, such as strength training, weight lifting and light cardio, including walking, also may be particularly beneficial for patients with diabetes.
Stop smoking and stop drinking alcohol
Patients with diabetes need to quit smoking immediately. Smoking can cause severe circulation problems for diabetics. Drinking alcohol also can affect blood sugar levels and should be avoided.
It can be beneficial for patients who are newly diagnosed or are having trouble managing their diabetes to take a class or seminar to learn about the lifestyle changes required to live healthfully.
About 86 million adults in the United States have prediabetes, which can evolve into full-fledged diabetes. Fortunately, lifestyle changes are the no. 1 way to fight off the disease.
- Focus on weight loss if you’re overweight: Losing just a few pounds can cut your risk of getting diabetes in half.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eat lot of vegetables, especially those low in starch, such as broccoli, carrots and spinach.
- Exercise 30 minutes or more each day: This is essential to fighting off prediabetes. A brisk walk is enough to help lower blood glucose levels.
- Eat more fiber: Choose whole-grain foods such as brown rice instead of processed grains like white rice.
- Get plenty of sleep: Losing weight is more difficult when the body is tired or stressed.
- Have your blood checked annually so a doctor can monitor your progress.