Dangers of diabetes can be reduced with help, action

Thursday, March 9, 2017 10:39 AM
Dr. Charles Bellows

In 2014, 29.1 million Americans were estimated to be living with diabetes. Of these, an estimated 8.1 million persons were unaware that they had the disease. The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes has increased 41 percent over a five-year period.

In fact, people with diagnosed diabetes have medical expenditures about 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes. This estimate highlights the burden that diabetes imposes on society.

Diabetes is characterized by persistently high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) due to the body’s failure to produce enough insulin to regulate high glucose levels. However, the impact of diabetes goes beyond this chronic hyperglycemia. It can affect any part of your body. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness (diabetic retinopathy), kidney failure (diabetic nephropathy) and nontraumatic lower limb amputations (diabetic neuropathy). People with diabetes are also two to four times more likely to experience cardiovascular complications (heart attacks and strokes). It is estimated that diabetes and its related complications result in more than 200,000 deaths each year, making diabetes one of the major causes of mortality in the U.S.

The good news is that you can prevent most of these problems by healthful eating, being physically active, and working with your health care provider to keep your blood glucose under control.

How can I tell if I am developing diabetes?People can develop diabetes or be prediabetic at any age. Prediabetes occurs when the amount of glucose in your blood is above normal yet not high enough to be called diabetes. With prediabetes, your chances of getting diabetes, heart disease and stroke are higher. The main types of diabetes include type 1, type 2 and gestational. Type 1-diabetes results when your body no longer makes insulin or enough insulin because the cells that makes insulin are damaged. Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance – your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, to meet the body’s demand. As a result, the body’s cells do not properly respond to the insulin, leading to persistently high concentrations of the sugar glucose in the blood. With some weight loss and moderate exercise, you can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes, possibly without medicine. Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnancy and typically resolves after childbirth.

One of the easiest ways to determine if you are developing diabetes is to have your blood tested for sugar. Some symptoms that might suggests that you are developing diabetes include increased thirst, unexplained weight loss, excessive hunger, and frequent urination.

If you have concerns about whether you have diabetes, you should talk to your health care provider. The sooner you visit your health care provider, the sooner you learn how to make lifestyle changes that can help manage and even delay, or prevent the onset of this disease.

My weight and diabetesThe rapid increase in the occurrence of diabetes is mostly attributed to the growing prevalence of obesity in the U.S. Almost 90 percent of people living with type-2 diabetes are overweight or obese. In fact, the best predictor of type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related co-morbidities is being overweight or obesity.

What is being overweight or obese?Overweight or obese refers to an increased body weight beyond an accepted standard for your height (i.e. body mass index). This standard is based on a population sample from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Being overweight may or may not be due to increases in body fatness. However, obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fatness or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass.

More than a third of adults are considered to be obese. Almost 75 percent of men are considered to be overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity is similar for both men and women (about 36 percent).

What can you do to prevent or manage diabetes?Several studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes and weight loss. Lifestyle changes include diet and moderate physical activity (such as walking for 150 minutes per week). The development of diabetes in these studies was reduced up to 60 percent and lasted three to six years. If you are not yet diabetic, the likelihood that you will develop diabetes can be mitigated if you prevent additional weight gain, increase your activity levels and work toward small amounts of weight loss. Remember, you can have a positive influence on your blood sugar and your overall health by healthy eating, exercising regularly, making modest lifestyle changes and using medications to lower blood glucose levels

Currently, Southwest Memorial Hospital is conducting prediabetes classes. In this group setting, participants discuss risk factors and healthy behaviors (healthy eating, carbohydrate counting, and physical activity) need to manage diabetes and possibly prevent the onset of diabetes. Remember, eating healthy is not just for people with diabetes.

What can you do if you already have diabetes?Type 1 diabetic patients must have insulin infections to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetic patients, however, can use insulin or other prescription drugs that work quite well in lowering blood glucose levels. However, these drugs are not without risks. As stated before, losing even as little as 10 pounds can have a big impact on the amounts of these medications one needed to keep their blood sugar levels within a healthy range Ultimately, better nutrition, increased physical activity, and control of blood glucose levels can delay the progression of diabetes and help prevent the complications associated with the disease.

Understanding diabetes and its related complications is important for everyone living with diabetes. Currently, Southwest Health System Nutrition Education, led by a registered dietitian and nutritionist, can provides nutrition counseling and education including but not limited to weight loss, and childhood obesity. They can also provide family counseling, meal planning, grocery store tours, and classroom education for community members including youth, and cooking tutorials. Both individual and group sessions are offered. Individual educational sessions can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual.

TreatmentThere is no cure for type 1 or 2 diabetes, although sometimes gastric/bariatric surgery, lifestyle and medication treatment can result in remission of type 2 diabetes. Currently, treatment of type 2 diabetes involves diet (i.e. Healthy food choices) and exercise along with lowering and maintaining blood glucose.

For more information, contact your primary care provider or call 970-516-1616 to establish care.