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In addition to Diabetes Awareness month, this week is also Diabetes Education Week; where nutritionists, endocrinologists, and other Diabetic Educators come together to share facts, tips, and surprising statistics about the disease itself, how to manage it, and how to prevent it.
We are going to go back to basics with defining what Diabetes actually is, the types of Diabetes, the symptoms, and how to effectively manage the disease if you or a loved one has been diagnosed. Living with Diabetes is difficult, but it doesn't have to be. With the right doctor and proper lifestyle changes, you don't have to let this disease rule your life.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to properly use and store glucose, or a form of sugar. Glucose backs up in the bloodstream, causing one's blood glucose - often referred to as blood sugar - to rise too high.
There are 2 major types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1 Diabetes, the body completely stops producing any insulin, which is a hormone that enables the body to use glucose found in foods for energy. Formerly known as Juvenile Onset or Insulin Dependent, people with Type 1 Diabetes must take daily insulin injections to survive. This form of Diabetes can develop at any age, but typically develops in children or young adults.
Type 2 Diabetes - formerly called Adult Onset, or Non Insulin Dependent - results when the body doesn't produce enough insulin and/or is unable to use insulin properly, which is known as insulin resistance. This form of Diabetes usually occurs in people over 40 years of age, overweight, and have a family history of Diabetes. Today, however, Type 2 Diabetes is alarmingly increasing in younger people, particularly adolescents.
People with Diabetes frequently experience certain symptoms. These symptoms include the following:
In some cases, especially with Type 2 Diabetes, there are no symptoms. In this case, people can live for months or years without knowing that they have the disease. Type 2 Diabetes comes on so gradually that symptoms may not even be recognized.
Anyone is at risk of developing Diabetes, but people who have close relatives with the disease are somewhat more likely to develop it. Other risk factors include: obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. The risk of diabetes also increases as people age. People who are over 40 and overweight are more likely to develop Diabetes, though as mentioned above, the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in adolescents is growing.
Also, women who are pregnant are at risk of developing Diabetes. It's a condition called gestational diabetes and may or may not continue once the baby is born. Women who do develop gestational diabetes are more likely to develop full blown diabetes later in life.
Out of the estimated 24 million people with Diabetes, one third of the population do not know they have the disease. This is because people with Type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms. However, a simple blood test is all it takes to find out if you have untreated Diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that everyone aged 45 and over should be tested for Diabetes, and if the results are normal, be re-tested every 3 years. Testing should be conducted at earlier ages and carried out more frequently in individuals who have any of the following risk factors:
The tests that are used for diagnosing Diabetes are:
Fasting Plasma Glucose: This blood test is taken in the morning, on an empty stomach. A level of 126MG or above, on more than one occasion indicated Diabetes.
Casual or Random Glucose: This blood test can be taken anytime during the day, without fasting. A glucose level of 200MG and above may suggest diabetes.
If any of these test results occur, testing should be repeated on a different day to confirm the diagnosis. If a casual plasma glucose equal to 200MG or above is detected, the confirming test used should be a fasting plasma glucose or an oral glucose tolerance test.
There are certain things that everyone who has Diabetes, whether Type 1 or Type 2, needs to do to be healthy. For instance:
Most importantly, people with Diabetes need to learn how to monitor their blood glucose. Daily testing will help determine how well their meal plan, activity plan, and medication are working to keep blood glucose levels within a normal range.
The goals of diabetes treatment are to control your blood glucose levels and prevent complications from Diabetes. Your Diabetes healthcare team will focus on the following three areas to help you achieve optimum health:
Nutrition: When you have Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, you need to be very aware of not only what you eat, but also when and how much you eat. A CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator) can work with you to develop a healthy meal plan that fits your lifestyle. Following a meal plan can also help you lose weight and lower your risk of developing complications.
Physical Activity: This is an important part of controlling Diabetes and preventing complications, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Exercise is a very effective way to help bring blood sugars under control for someone with Type 2 Diabetes. 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, can make a world of difference in managing your sugar.
Medications: If you have Type 2 Diabetes, sometimes eating healthy and exercising is not enough. Your doctor may give you oral medication, such as Metformin, Glimepiride, or others to help control your blood sugar levels. For people with Type 1 Diabetes, and sometimes with Type 2, they must take insulin to control Diabetes - and this can only be done through multiple injections, or by an insulin pump.
Your healthcare team will encourage you to follow your meal plan and exercise program, use your medications and monitor your blood sugar regularly to keep your blood glucose in as normal of a range as possible as much of the time as possible. Why is this so important?
Poorly managed Diabetes can lead to a plethora of long term complications, including, but not limited to:
Luckily, a nationwide study that was completed over a 10 year period showed that if people keep their blood glucose as close to normal as possible, they can reduce their risk of developing some of these complications by 50% or more.
While there is no actual way to prevent the disease, especially if you have a genetic risk, there are ways to significantly reduce your risk.
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of the disease, though it's still not fully understood. Recent research does suggest that there are some things an individual can do to prevent this form of Diabetes. Studies show that lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes in those adults who are at high risk of getting the disease.
Modest weight loss and modest physical activity are the most recommended goals, followed by healthy eating habits.
Keeping a routine when you have Diabetes can help ensure adherence to diabetes management. Routines help establish consistency in blood glucose levels and reduce the risk for severe blood glucose fluctuations.
To implement a successful routine when you have diabetes, you need to gain a good understanding of what major factors influence blood glucose levels, so you can keep them in mind while building your routine. Some major factors that influence blood glucose levels include:
Illness, stress, and hormone levels also have a significant effect on blood glucose levels. However, those factors are not usually easy to control or incorporate into a routine.
The second step to establishing a routine when you have diabetes is to gain an appreciation for the timing and interaction among various factors. What does that mean? For example, understanding the action and approximate onset of meal time insulin and digestion of various micronutrients, may help guarantee optimal timing of insulin administration.
What to Include in Your Routine
Key components of a diabetes management or lifestyle routine should include these three factors: meals, physical activity, and sleep.
Depending on what type of Diabetes medication or insulin you take, you might need to select a specific time for administration. Some types of insulin and/or diabetes medications should be coordinated with meals, while others should not. Some regimens also allow for more meal time flexibility than others.
When selecting a diabetes medication/insulin program, think about your own individual preferences and lifestyle. Speak with your diabetes team about your preferences to find the most appropriate and effective diabetes medication treatment plan.
By starting a routine, you should be able to effectively manage your diabetes. A routine allows you some control in preventing erratic or severe high or low blood sugar patterns, and avoiding such patterns are beneficial to your health.
Getting diagnosed with Diabetes can be difficult to absorb. It's a disease where your lifestyle needs to change, or you could potentially face serious side effects. It's important to learn as much as you can about Diabetes because you can establish a sense of control.
Learning the facts and survival skills of Diabetes may seem overwhelming, but it will help you thrive and cope with the disease well. Try to rally support from family and friends to better help you cope. Research shows that the more support you receive, the better off you are.
It is even recommended to see a counselor if you need to. After being diagnosed, you may feel as if your world turned upside down and you may not know what to do with those feelings. Counseling allows you to talk about what it is like to be diagnosed, the struggles you can expect, and how you care going to live with it. Counseling can also help improve your attitude toward having the disease. How you define yourself in relation to your Diabetes may make a dramatic difference in your emotional well being, and how you take care of yourself.
Be sure to speak with your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before stopping or starting any medication, supplements, or before beginning a health regimen.