More than 30 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetesBy Veita Bland, M.D. / September 2, 2022
To say that diabetes is complicated is an understatement. The medical condition occurs when the blood sugar is elevated over a prolonged period of time. Initial symptoms may include frequent thirst, increased urination and increased appetite. The problem lies in the consequences that happen in people with diabetes. These patients, if left untreated, manifest a myriad of health problems. Serious long term complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, foot ulcers, damage to the nerves of the feet, eye disease and loss of cognitive skills or dementia.
Diabetes comes about when the pancreas, which makes our insulin to keep sugar levels under control, is either not making enough insulin, the quality of the insulin made is defective or the cells of the body are not responding to the insulin that is being made. This can lead to and elevation in sugar numbers and the complications start to add up.
There are more than 30.3 million or 9.4 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes in the United States. We can add to that number the 84.1 million people in the U.S. who are pre-diabetic. Then we can really see that we have a huge problem on our hands.
When the body does not make insulin, it is called Type 1 diabetes. The more common diabetes is Type 2. With Type 2, the cells of the body do not respond to the insulin that is being made by the pancreas. As we age though, we progressively make less insulin each and every day and therefore our bodies may see a lack of insulin. This is also why Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed in people as they get older. The significant increase in obesity, especially in young people, means we are seeing huge increases of diabetes in younger age groups. Obesity increases the occurrence of diabetes as does inactivity. Diabetes at least doubles a person’s risk of early death.
As we see more and more people develop diabetes, the medical profession has finally said we need to be more aggressive. Recent thoughts have led to the medical community’s adoption of treating patients earlier in their course of diabetes. Pre-diabetes is where the treatment should begin. Patients should not have years of elevated glucose readings and then start treatment.
When we talk about diabetes to patients, many are apprehensive about the possibility of being on insulin. Medical science is currently at a place in time where we are fortunate to have several effective medications that can correct the damage diabetes can cause in the body. Most of these medications are taken orally.
Many people like to hide behind the prediabetes term and chose to not be aggressive in effectively treating this disease that can be deadly. We see diabetes in families. If you have family members with diabetes, please be proactive and get yourself tested. If you were diabetic during pregnancy, you have an increased chance of becoming diabetic. Be proactive and keep a check on your diabetes status.
Obesity is one of the clinical symptoms often seen in many diabetic patients. If you are obese, keep a solid eye on your diabetic status. If you are obese, try to lose weight and be more active. Remember, your food enemies include carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes and rice. And, of course, say no to sugared sweets.
Develop a sustainable exercise program. Learn about your diet. Let your healthcare provider know you are aware of the consequences of untreated diabetes and you want to develop a new way of thinking about diet and exercise. Let your healthcare provider know that you want to be proactive in your healthcare in order to prevent becoming diabetic.
Diabetics do not die of diabetes. They die of heart disease. Diabetics have a four times greater risk of developing dementia. It does not have to be this way. Be proactive.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at email@example.com.