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November 2007: Recognize Diabetes and Take Control for Better Health

01 Nov 2007

The Wound Healing Center at Weiss specializes in the treatment of chronic wounds and offers hospital-based outpatient wound care and hyperbaric oxygen therapy as well as disease management and diabetes care. Holly Grant is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) working as the Director of Weiss Memorial Hospital’s Wound Healing Center.

Recognize Diabetes and Take Control for Better Health

Holly Grant, RD, CDE 
Wound Healing Center
Weiss Memorial Hospital
Phone: (773) 564-6080
Fax: (773) 564-6076

National Diabetes Month during November was established to educate all Americans about the condition of diabetes, which is a lack of usual blood glucose control. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 20.8 million people have diabetes. This is equivalent to 7 percent of the U.S. population! Of that 20.8 million people, 6.2 million, or almost 33 percent of all people with diabetes, do not even realize that they have the disease. Another 54 million Americans have a predisposing condition called “pre-diabetes.” Around the globe, according to the International Diabetes Federation, 230 million people are affected by diabetes.

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the result of a complex interplay of the endocrine or hormonal system in the body not working properly. Diabetes is caused by several different mechanisms:

  • The inability of the pancreas to produce any or enough insulin. “Type 1” or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus falls into this category.
  • The inability of the body to use available insulin appropriately, which is the most common cause of “Type 2” diabetes or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
  • The liver’s over-production of glucose.
  • Any combination of these.

What is insulin and what is its function?
Insulin is a hormone released by specialized “beta” cells in the pancreas. Its purpose is to act as a key that opens the locks to all cells in the body. This allows the sugar in the bloodstream, called blood glucose, to exit the circulating bloodstream, and reach its proper final destination, the body’s cells. There it is essential to life, as it acts as the only acceptable energy source for the cells. Without this intricate delivery mechanism, the cells would be starving for energy and the extra sugar or glucose would remain in the bloodstream where it could cause damage to the body over long periods of time. This elevated state of blood glucose level for extended periods of time is how diabetes is diagnosed.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Symptoms of diabetes can include the following:

  • increased urination
  • increased thirst
  • increased hunger
  • increased infections with slowed healing
  • blurred vision
  • tingling or prickly feelings in feet and/or hands

These symptoms are the body’s reactions to the high levels of blood sugar traveling through the circulation, while the cells are starving for energy, leaving the individual tired and hungry.

How can I find out if I have diabetes?
Many people have diabetes and do not even realize it since it is a progressive condition that at first shows no overt symptoms. Consequently, just as you periodically have your eyes or teeth checked it’s a good idea to check your blood sugar levels, at least once a year. A great time to do this is during National Diabetes Month (during November) or before the holidays (when healthy eating goes by the wayside!). A simple blood test is all that is needed. If your blood sugar is too high, additional, more detailed, blood testing may be ordered by your doctor to confirm a diagnosis.

If I have diabetes, what should I do?
Treatment options for the condition of diabetes all have the goal of keeping your blood sugar in a normal range, usually about 70-120 mg of blood sugar per deciliter of blood. This is accomplished by eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and small, low fat protein choices to control blood sugar levels and body weight. The best food choices are those that are not made from simple sugars and take time to digest. The American Diabetes Association and The American Dietetic Association have great menu/meal planning resources on their websites.

Exercise is also key to blood sugar control because it limits obesity, a major contributing factor to diabetes and it forces the body to use the extra sugar in the bloodstream more effectively, as the need for energy increases with exercise.

At least seven hours of sleep per night helps control diabetes as well. Weight gain is slowed because many hormones are able to work best while you sleep.

Schedule regular checkups with your doctor and be sure to check the soles of your feet for any changes in feeling/sensation, bruises, cuts, sores, etc. Minor injuries to the feet of a person with diabetes can lead to infections, chronic non-healing wounds and even amputations.

If the steps above still do not control blood sugar, medications can be used, either pills or injections. It is vital to long-term health to know that whatever it takes should be the mindset of a person with diabetes, to prevent health complications in the future.

For further information
As we enter the final months of the year and the hectic holiday season, do not forget the healthy habits you use the rest of the year. Pace yourself, start early, scale back and keep up with the lifestyle behaviors that are best for your health. Remember, most people gain four to seven pounds per year, and it is usually in the winter months, beginning now.

If you would like further information about diabetes, preventive measures, or wound treatment options, please call Holly Grant at (773) 564-6080 or contact the Wound Healing Center at Weiss at (773) 564-6075.