by Mike Thomas, Oelwein Daily Register
originally printed in Health Beat, November 2018, published by the Oelwein Daily Register and Independence Bulletin Journal
November marks National Diabetes Awareness Month, a condition that affects over 30 million Americans.
Most cases of diabetes are either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, both of which involve insulin. With type 1 diabetes, your body can’t make insulin and with type 2, your body doesn’t use insulin well enough to keep blood sugar at normal levels.
Dr. Manju Mahajan of Covenant Clinic said diabetes patients need to manage their “ABCs,” which is their A1C levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.
“Diabetes could be managed with the use of medicine or sometimes just losing weight along with diet and exercise is enough,” Mahajan said. “Sometimes, medications are needed to bring the A1C down or bring those blood sugars down to a normal rate. Then sometimes, people need insulin shots to bring that A1C down.”
The most common form of diabetes is type 2, which is nine out 10 cases in the U.S., according to the CDC. The risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include having blood sugar levels higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, being overweight, being over age 45, a family history of diabetes and not getting enough exercise.
If someone is diagnosed with diabetes, Mahajan recommends that patients get checkups with their doctor every three months. She also recommends periodic checkups for those who don’t have diabetes, because there may not be any symptoms in the beginning.
“If somebody were to have symptoms for it, the symptoms would be they may have the increased need to urinate and use the bathroom more often,” Mahajan said. “They feel more thirsty and want to drink more water or they have a change in their vision.”
Diabetes can develop from both a family history and from lifestyle choices.
“People who have a strong family history of diabetes have a strong chance to develop diabetes,” Mahajan said. “In terms of prevention, talk to your doctor about your risks and get checked periodically.”
It is important to diagnose both forms of diabetes, because it can lead to serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke and kidney issues.
“They can have something called peripheral neuropathy that means loss of feeling or pain in their hands or feet,” Mahajan said. “Sometimes, it could cause decreased blood flow into the fingers or toes and sometimes amputation is required. Vision problems that can lead to permanent blindness, so those are some of the complications that can happen with diabetes.”
Mahajan also recommends that diabetes patients visit an eye doctor to ensure they don’t have diabetes in their retina after they are diagnosed.
Although diabetes cannot be cured, it can be prevented and treated. Two of the main things people can do to lower their risk of developing diabetes is diet and exercise.
“Usually, I would say a moderate exercise activity like brisk walking is good,” Mahajan said. “30 minutes a day for six days a week would be good. The other thing would be watching your diet, having a low carb, high protein diet is good.”