By regularly monitoring blood sugar levels, eating a proper diet and getting plenty of exercise people with diabetes can and do live normal lives.
How many people do you know with diabetes? Unless you’ve asked someone, chances are you wouldn’t even know they have it. That’s because people are living better with diabetes thanks to new medications and lifestyle changes which help to keep the disease in check.
Still when you look at the numbers affected it’s pretty staggering – 29.1 million alone in the U.S. – or about 9.3 percent of the population have the disease. Another 86 million people are estimated to have pre diabetes.
So, can you do anything to reduce your risk? Experts say in some cases, yes.
Lifestyle Changes Make a Big Difference
Eating right, getting plenty of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are good lifestyle goals for all of us. And, it turns out these are the same things that minimize your risk of type 2 diabetes.
“Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes,” says Melanie Horstmann, MS, RD, LDN/Diabetes Self-Management Coordinator with St. Mary’s Good Samaritan. “About 90-95 percent of people have this type and it tends to affect adults. It’s also possible to prevent or delay with lifestyle change.”
Type 2 diabetes is a form of diabetes where there’s insulin resistance in the body as well as a decrease in insulin production. Risk factors include being overweight, leading a sedentary lifestyle, having high blood pressure, as well as elevated blood sugar and lipid levels.
People at risk for developing type 2 diabetes are often diagnosed with Pre Diabetes prior to the type 2 diagnosis. Signs and symptoms of both Pre Diabetes and type 2 Diabetes are lethargy, frequent urination, blurry vision, hunger, and extra thirst.
“People with Pre Diabetes can really be in control of how fast or even if they develop type 2 diabetes at all,” says Horstmann. “If your doctor says you have Pre Diabetes it’s important to watch what you eat, choose healthy foods, cut back on portions, eat healthy fats, limit sweets in your diet, and add activity into your daily life. Weight loss of 5-15 pounds has potential to improve blood sugars, which may prevent the onset of type 2 Diabetes.”
Horstmann says she’s seen patients who’ve made these lifestyle changes and prevented or significantly delayed the onset of the disease. She’s also seen people who’ve had type 2 diabetes and, with proper diet and activity, have controlled it to the point where they were able to get off some medications. She also notes that diabetes itself cannot be reversed, but through weight loss, physical activity, and diet change, some patients are able to control it with little or no medication.
The less common form of diabetes is type 1. This type is most often diagnosed in children and young adults and is a condition where the body does not produce insulin on its own. Because of that, people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to survive. That’s why often people with type 1 have an insulin pump.
“No matter which type of diabetes you have, basic treatments are pretty similar,” says Horstmann. “Watch what you eat, get regular physical activity and if your doctor prescribes medications, make sure you take them. The difference is patients with type 1 require insulin while patients with type 2 may be able to control it with diet, physical activity, and oral medications. Many patients with type 2 diabetes eventually require insulin because the nature of the condition is progressive.”
Risks are Significant if Diabetes Left Uncontrolled
Diabetes symptoms can often be mistaken typical symptoms of old age, i.e. feeling tired, poor vision, frequent urination, hunger etc. Left unchecked, though, the risks from complications are significant and even deadly!
“Diabetes is not something to take lightly,” says Horstmann. “There are lots of risks if you don’t control the disease. You can get blood vessel damage, which makes diabetes the leading causes of stroke and heart disease. Diabetes can also lead to blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage and circulation problems in the lower extremities. Diabetes can ultimately lead to lower extremity amputation.”
When blood sugar levels are controlled people with diabetes have more energy and overall feel better. That’s why it’s so important to not only get it diagnosed but then make sure it’s under control.
“Regular follow-up with a diabetes educator or a physician is critical to make sure there’s ongoing monitoring of the disease,” says Horstmann. “Having your blood pressure checked regularly, lipids monitored annually, and getting a flu shot yearly are also important.”
The good news is people with diabetes are leading normal lives. And, research continues to change the treatments that are available. New advancements mean more efficient medications; better insulin pumps and blood glucose monitors are available so people with diabetes can better control their disease.
A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. But, as long as individuals are given the knowledge on how to control the disease, that diagnosis doesn’t have to keep them from enjoying life.
St. Mary’s Hospital and Good Samaritan Regional Health Center offer diabetes support in different formats with education and support groups along with self-management educational sessions. The Diabetes Support Groups meet in the St. Mary’s Hospital auditorium at 6 pm on the second Tuesday of each month. At Good Samaritan the Diabetes Support Groups meet in the Mother Odilia Classroom in the Medical Plaza at 6 pm on the first Tuesday of each month. These Support Groups are designed to help individuals continue to learn about diabetes. Both hospitals also host Diabetes Self-Management classes each month for patients to learn about Diabetes as a whole. To learn more, visit SMGSI online or call Melanie Horstmann at 618.899.2085.
Break-out: Diabetes by the Numbers
• 29.1 million – the total number of children and adults in the U.S. with diabetes.
• 1.7 million – the number of new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
• 86 million – the number of people in the U.S. estimated to have pre diabetes.
• 51% of those over age 65 are pre diabetic
• Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US
• The risk for heart attack is 1.8 times greater for those with diabetes than those without
• Cardiovascular disease death is 1.7 times higher for those with diabetes than those without
• $245 billion - the total cost for diagnosed diabetes in the U.S.
• Health care expenditures are 2.3 times higher for those with diabetes than those without
As reported by the American Diabetes Association