For many of us, it is hard to imagine the daily care required to control diabetes. For those with the disease, a normal day consists of constantly monitoring blood sugar levels, coordinating meals, exercising, medications and/or insulin injections.
“Diabetes is rapidly growing and a leading cause of death in the U.S. — impacting nearly 26 million people in the U.S. alone,” says Pat Cooper, vice president for clinical operations at Quorum Health Resources (QHR). “What’s more, an estimated 7 million Americans have the condition but remain undiagnosed.”
High blood sugar symptoms are easy to dismiss. Excessive hunger, increased thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, numbness in hands/feet or a waistline that exceeds 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women — are all causes for concern.
To clarify the urgency of leaving diabetes untreated, Dr. Gene Barrett, president of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently introduced the term “pre-diabetes” — describing those individuals with high blood glucose (sugar) who are at risk for developing diabetes. Once a person has full-blown diabetes (Type 2), their bodies either do not make enough insulin or the insulin that they are making does not work properly.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day. The month offers numerous opportunities to get involved locally and nationally to raise awareness.
The cause of diabetes varies, but obesity, inactivity and genetics are generally responsible. The various types of the disease include: type 1, which is typically diagnosed in children under 17-years-old (but has been seen in people who are in their 30s); type 2 (typically seen in patients over 20 years old, but has been diagnosed in children as well) and gestational diabetes, which occurs in pregnant women. Most women with gestational diabetes do not remain diabetic after the baby is born, however they are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
Patients with diabetes can help prevent complications such as cardiovascular disease or stroke with the right medical treatment. According to the ADA, reducing diastolic blood pressure from 90 mmHg to 80 mmHg in people with diabetes reduces the risk of major cardiovascular events by 50 percent.
When diabetes is left untreated it can lead to serious complications such as:
• Kidney failure
• Heart disease
• Nerve damage
• Non-traumatic lower-limb amputations
“Diabetes affects major organs including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys,” explains Dr. Vasdev Lohano, MD at Daviess Community Hospital. “It is important to take a diabetes or pre-diabetes diagnosis seriously to avoid life-threatening complications. Lifestyle changes can potentially reverse the disease in pre-diabetic patients to make significant metabolic improvement.”
Researchers are hopeful that one day diabetes patients will only require insulin injections once a week or less. The Harvard Stem Cell Institute recently discovered a hormone that naturally regulates insulin. When tested in mice, the hormone triggered the pancreas to produce insulin up to 30 times more than the normal rate. While the hormone has not yet been approved for humans, the research is welcome news to the millions who administer insulin each day.
While there is no cure for diabetes, treatment options consist of following a meal plan that is low in sugar and solid fats, regular exercise, oral medications, and insulin injections. Consult your healthcare professional to understand your risk for diabetes, or to determine the best treatment options that will help you manage the disease.
Throughout the month of November, there are several events nationwide. You can participate in runs like “Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes” race or you can donate money online to fund research. For more information on diabetes and diabetes awareness, please visit the American Diabetes Association’s website at http://www.diabetes.org.
Special to TH