Last night I attended a recognition dinner for a local clinic where I do volunteer diabetes education. After the program, a woman sitting behind me introduced herself as the sister of a patient I had worked with. She thanked me for my contribution to the community and stated that she recognized the symptoms of diabetes in her brother after reading a past article that listed them. She gave me permission to share our interchange, so this month let’s revisit some facts. Thank you, J.P. and Tommy!
November is National Diabetes Month and diabetes has reached epidemic levels in the United States. On the American Diabetes Association website (www.diabetes.org) it is reported that in 2011 there are 25.8 million Americans with diabetes, 8.3 percent of the American population. Of those 25.8 million people, there are 7.0 million people who are undiagnosed and 79 million people in the U.S. who have pre-diabetes, a condition that can lead to diabetes in the absence of lifestyle changes.
What are some of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes? They are being over 45 years of age, being of Afro-American, Hispanic or Native American heritage, having a parent or sibling with diabetes, being overweight, practicing low physical activity or having a personal history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Any one of those risk factors is important but two or more risks require your immediate attention and action.
You cannot change your age, heritage or parents but being overweight or being inactive are within your control. Textbook symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, excessive thirst, lack of energy and changes in vision but it is not always experienced.
To improve your understanding of cause-effect, let’s discuss the physiology behind those symptoms. Diabetes is the presence of excessive amounts of glucose in the blood. The kidneys attempt to flush glucose out of the blood so urine output is increased and trips to the bathroom become more frequent. To compensate for the loss of fluid, unquenchable thirst develops. It is common to rationalize that “I am going to the bathroom all the time so of course I am thirsty!”
When you have insufficient insulin to escort energy-producing glucose into each cell, you feel tired.
Elevated blood glucose levels can cause changes in the shape of the lens in your eye so you may notice a change in your vision.If any of those symptoms are familiar, you may be one of the many Americans with undiagnosed diabetes and need to be evaluated.
We have reviewed the risk factors and the symptoms of diabetes: Now what? Treatment for Type 2 diabetes usually starts with dietary changes, progresses to oral medications and then may require insulin injections. Whatever method is used, the treatment goal is to keep the glucose level within a healthy range. The ADA goal for fasting blood glucose is between 70-110mg/dl but your health care provider may set a different glucose goal for you.
Be familiar with the symptoms of diabetes and if you are at risk, take action. Minor changes in your lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on your health.
To know more about diabetes, I suggest reading “Type 2 Diabetes: the First Year” by Gretchen Becker or look at the ADA website at www.diabetes.org. A diagnosis of diabetes does not have to be a devastating disease, but you must take action today.
Susan Sorensen is a registered nurse who does diabetes education in the community and can be reached at www.starladydiabetes.com.
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