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November 2011: Identifying, Understanding and Managing Diabetes

01 Nov 2011

Dr. Ejiro Akpofure is a board certified family practitioner at Lakefront Medical Associates at Weiss Memorial Hospital. Her special interests include diabetes, preventive health, women’s health and naturopathy.

Ejiro Akpofure, M.D.
Family Practice Physician
Lakefront Medical Associates
Weiss Memorial Hospital
(773) 564-5355

As we welcome the entrance of the winter, we also celebrate warm, plentiful meals with loved ones. November is National Diabetes Month and I would like to take this opportunity to discuss this very serious health concern. 25 million people in the United States have diabetes and approximately 79 million people have pre-diabetes.

Diabetes Mellitus (Mel-it-hus) , commonly referred to as “sugar diabetes,” is a disease that is defined by elevated blood glucose levels and the inability of the body to clear the glucose by either producing too little or too much insulin. There are three distinct classes: Type I Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes), Type II Diabetes (Late Onset Diabetes), and Gestational Diabetes.  I will focus on Type II Diabetes.

When you eat a meal there are several organs, hormones and tissues that work together to use the food products and transform them to energy. The main hormone that does this is insulin, and it is produced in the pancreas. In Type II Diabetes, insulin is not produced enough or the insulin that is in your system does not work very well. This leads to high blood glucose levels which can be very damaging to your body.

Imagine pouring honey on toast or in your tea, it is very thick and gluey, right? Now imagine that same honey inside your body, covering your organs, in your blood stream. Now ask your body to perform normally: ask your heart to beat at the usual rate, ask your kidneys to function optimally, ask your eyes to see 20/20. Your body cannot function at its best when your blood glucose is elevated. It becomes slow and prone to other disease processes such as heart disease, hypertension, kidney failure, eye disease and stroke.

It is a common misconception that eating a lot of sugar will cause you to have diabetes but that is not entirely correct. Our bodies are designed to seek and consume nutrients that will yield us the greatest energy quotient. Glucose, fats, proteins and carbohydrates do just that. However, the difference from hundreds of years ago and today is that these nutrients are readily available and in large quantities. We consume more than we need at any given meal.

Risk factors for developing diabetes:

  • Family history of diabetes. This is crucial. If you have a first degree relative that has diabetes your chances of developing the disease are higher.
  • Being overweight or having a Body Mass Index ( BMI) higher than 25. This is no surprise to many of you. Excess fat not only puts more pressure on our joints, it also increases the inflammatory state of our organs which may lead to disease.
  • Not exercising regularly. We must use the energy we consume constructively. The best way to get rid of excess energy and nutrients is to burn them. Exercise gives us many health benefits including  increased life span, reduced blood pressure and controlled stress.
  • Having a history of impaired fasting glucose. If your doctor tells you that you have “borderline” glucose or pre-diabetes, take this warning seriously. Examine your diet, start or increase your exercise regimen and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Certain ethnic groups. African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans and American Indians are at a higher risk for developing diabetes.

Common signs or symptoms of diabetes:

  • Drinking more water or feeling thirsty all the time
  • Urinating frequently
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Unusually large appetite
  • Slow healing sores or bruises
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness in your hands or feet
  • Sexual problems

You may still be at risk for diabetes even if you do not exhibit any of these symptoms.

Monitoring and treatment
Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires different modalities for successful treatment: they include healthy diet, foot care, eye care and sequential monitoring of blood glucose levels.

I am an advocate of healthy lifestyle as the best defense against many disease processes including diabetes:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Avoid processed foods such as refined sugar and fast food. 
  • Make sure that each meal contains a majority of vegetables.
  • Make your plate colorful. Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables!
  • Remember to move more, even in cold weather. This allows your body to be more efficient at burning calories.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • See your doctor at scheduled intervals during the year. Schedule preventative exams, such as blood tests, pap smears, colonoscopies and heart evaluation.

Remember that the doctor-patient relationship is a partnership. Let us help you live a healthier life.

For more information
If you would like more information about diabetes, or would like an appointment, please call Dr. Akpfure’s office at (773) 564-5355.