Managing Diabetes 101

Managing Diabetes 101

Diabetes is a huge and growing problem in the United States primarily due to an increase in obesity and  longer lifespans.  Currently, this disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and would be higher if we take into consideration that several of the other causes can also be the result of diabetes. Unfortunately, in spite of  the growing risks of diabetes, many Americans are not eating a healthy diet.  If left untreated or uncontrolled, diabetes can eventually lead to heart disease, kidney disease and chronic infections of the mouth, gums, and lungs.  

            There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 is an autoimmune diseases in which the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas.  Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and accounts for 90 to 95 percent of total diabetes. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas does produce insulin but the cells become resistant to the effects.  Many people are unaware that this type of diabetes is affecting the younger population of our country.  This may be due to the increase of obesity in younger children.  

            People with diabetes are more likely to experience episodes of both high and low blood sugar levels.  Hyperglycemia, or having too much glucose in the blood, can appear as symptoms such as fatigue, constant need to urinate, extreme thirst, loss of weight and feeling hungry constantly.  Unfortunately there is no cure for either types of diabetes but those with type 2 diabetes may be able to reduce their dependency on medications through weight loss, diet and exercise.  High blood sugar levels can eventually lead to blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction and limb amputations. Cardiovascular disease is 2 to 4 times more common in those people diagnosed with diabetes. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is a key step since this is critical to managing your disease. Making lifestyle changes in diet and exercise can actually prevent, reduce or delay the risk of adult on-set diabetes.  

            Here are some recommendations for those who are diagnosed with diabetes:  Try to eat a low-fat, high fiber diet which can include raw fruits and vegetables. Fiber will help reduce blood sugar cravings.  Include legumes and whole grains as well.  Avoid foods such as white rice, white flour and processed foods as these will cause insulin levels to rise.  This is primarily because the fiber has been reduced or removed in processing and makes the remaining carbohydrates more rapidly absorbed. Avoid saturated fats, trans fat and hydrogenated oils.  However, some fats are beneficial such as extra virgin olive oil, fish oil, and avocado oil since these reduce cognitive decline in people with diabetes. Eliminating the bad fats and oils from your diet will help maintain a good brain function.  Exercise regularly and limiting your coffee consumption can help also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

            It is important to monitor kidney function periodically. Diabetics who smoke may develop kidney damage due to constriction of blood vessels and pushing large protein molecules out of the vessels and into the kidneys which can eventually lead to kidney failure. If you have a family history of diabetes or are obese, it is important to have a yearly exam with your doctor and get a complete metabolic panel done.