What Does Diabetes Look Like?

Do you know someone who has diabetes? Most of us do, even if we aren’t aware of it. It may be your coworker, your cousin or your neighbor. The obesity epidemic has recently pointed a spotlight at type 2 diabetes which can be delayed or even prevented by diet and activity changes or losing weight. But type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, strikes those who haven’t had a chance to make poor food choices, like very young children, or those who are physically active and at normal weight. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the pancreas, ultimately disabling it. Because the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, these people have no alternative but to test their blood with finger pricks several times a day and inject insulin to control their blood glucose level. Diabetes Awareness Month aims to educate us about those who live with this disease every day, 24 hours a day. There is no vacation from diabetes. Since the discovery and the medical availability of insulin in 1921 lives have been prolonged and diabetics are able to lead more normal lives, but there is still no cure. The treatments have progressed to include continuous glucose monitors that alleviate finger pricks and allow diabetics to more closely monitor glucose levels. Insulin pumps are becoming more mainstream and more common so that diabetics can program the amount of insulin delivered at any given point in time and make adjustments more quickly. But, the ability for these two devices to communicate doesn’t exist yet so diabetics must still track information and program insulin...

Are You Trying to Prevent Diabetes?

Did you know that the total cost of all diagnosed diabetes the United States is $245 billion a year?  If you don’t have diabetes, you probably know at least one person who does.  And if you are the typical American who is overweight and has high cholesterol and blood pressure, you are headed down the path of pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes.  You can do a lot to prevent it, even if it is just preventing yourself from developing it.  November is Diabetes Awareness Month sponsered by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).  The ADA estimates that 26 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, both juvenile or type 1 diabetes and adult onset or type 2 diabetes.  In addition, another 79 million have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.  If you aren’t sure whether this is you or how high your risk is, the ADA provides an online tool to calculate your risk of developing diabetes so you can see where you stand. If you know you are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, either because you have had a high blood glucose (blood sugar) test result, because your doctor has already told you, or you just took the risk calculator and the results came out a bit too high for your comfort, what do you do next?  Here are some steps you should take immediately to get off the type 2 diabetes track and onto the long, healthy life path: Change your diet to include more fruits and vegetables and fewer salty, sugary processed foods. Increase your activity level by walking, biking and moving...

Why Are We Still Fat and Unhealthy?

Are you ready to hear this again?  Americans are fat and getting fatter.  In overall health and life expectancy the US lags behind Europe and other developed countries.  One study describes the State of US Health as improving but not nearly as quickly as in other wealthy countries.  Americans can expect to live longer with more disabilities than their european peers.  We spend more per capita on health but  still suffer from diseases caused by our poor lifestyles: lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking  and high body mass index.  During the time period of 1985 to 2010 women’s longevity did not increase at all while men’s only increased by a measly 5% placing the US 27th among the 34 countries considered to be our peers. There is some good news: Americans are more physically active and in fact, there are more Americans getting enough physical exercise than there were 10 years ago.  But it’s not enough to make a dent in our obesity levels.  While activity levels rise, so do obesity levels.  What’s the deal?  According to a study conducted at the University of Washington the gap appears to be that while we may be more active, we are still eating too much!  Portion sized have increased dramatically, both in restaurants and at home since the early 1970s and the food we eat is loaded with fat, sugar and salt. The answer: Change your diet and eat less.  The effects of our poor diet combined with smoking, excess alcohol and lack of exercise lead to ever increasing rates of diabetes.  Tests can identify pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome to let...

Autoimmunity and Salt: Are You Low Sodium Yet?

Have you adjusted your diet to a low sodium version yet?  If not, you have another reason to do it as soon as possible.  High salt foods have been shown to raise blood pressure, increase the risk of edema (swelling) and numerous other health problems due to the retention of water caused by excess salt.  With the right amount of salt we are able to hold onto just enough water for our bodies to funcgtion properly and electrolytes to move to the body parts where they do the most good.  Reducing your salt intake is important for many reasons: a lower sodium intake has been associated with other health benefits, including a reduced risk of dying from a stroke, reversal of heart enlargement, and a reduced risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis. If the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure isn’t enough to scare you into skipping those super salty fries and salty snacks like chips, maybe a new study linking high salt intake to autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis would make a difference.  The specifics of how they are linked has to do with high levels of salt that produce higher levels of  TH17 cells in your body.  These cells produce an inflammatory protein: interleukin-17.  I have recent experience with an autoimmune disease, hyperthyroidism or Graves Disease.  Antibodies are produced that cause the thyroid to become overactive, producing excessive levels of thyroid hormone.  Could this be caused by excess salt?  It is certainly possible and makes me want to look at my overall sodium intake.  Now I’m in a position of needing to take replacment thyroid hormone for the rest of my life because my body...

Managing Blood Sugar – The Diabetics Ongoing Struggle

Have you been diagnosed with diabetes?  If you are like many diabetics, you are discovering (or have already found) that maintaining a steady blood sugar level is easier said than done.  November is American Diabetes Month and worth our attention because this disease is one of the largest health issues our country currently faces.  An estimated one in three Americans will develop diabetes by 2050 if we don’t make major changes to our lifestyles.  If you have already been diagnosed with Type 1 as a child or young adult or Type 2 as an adult, the prevention information isn’t much use to you.  I already have it so what do I do now?  Your doctor has most likely already discussed diet and exercise with you and, if you are overweight, suggested that you need to lose some.  Based on current research studies here are some tips: Follow your doctor’s advice and lose some weight.  Even though recent studies, specifically one conducted by Look AHEAD subsidized by the National Institutes of Health, are now showing that losing weight may not affect your risk of having a stroke or a heart attack, the benefits to you from even small amounts of weight lose are huge: Improved hemoglobin A1c readings (which look at average blood sugar levels for the past three months), better blood pressure numbers, better fitness and, less medication required to control the diabetes.  Overall, losing weight is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you are overweight, whether or not you have diabetes. Tight Control: This method as described by the American Diabetes Association is not for everyone and...