What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease affecting more than 7 percent of the U.S.
population or 21 million people. Diabetes is linked to heart and kidney
disease, strokes, and other serious health problems. Diabetes results
when the body either does not produce insulin or cannot use it properly.
Insulin is a hormone that your body needs to convert sugar, starches and
other food into energy for living. Although there is no cure for diabetes,
it can be controlled.
How did I get diabetes?
We don’t know all the reasons why people get diabetes and scientists
are trying discover ways to prevent diabetes. The following factors increase
your chance of getting diabetes:
- You have a known family history of diabetes.
- You are African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
- While pregnant, you developed gestational diabetes.
- You delivered a baby who weighed more than nine pounds.
- You have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or triglycerides,
or are overweight.
Did I do something to get it?
Please don’t blame yourself! Although a healthy lifestyle is helpful
in preventing some types of diabetes, there may not have been anything
you could have done to prevent it. Now that you know there is a problem,
let us help you get healthier. You will need to learn to eat better, get
more exercise and manage your stress. There will also be some skills you
will need to learn, like checking your blood sugar at home, how to take
your medications, and how to take care of your feet.
What’s a normal blood sugar?
A normal fasting blood sugar (first thing in the morning before breakfast)
is less than 100 mg/dL. A normal 2 hour after meal blood sugar is less
than 140 mg/dL. Your doctor will help you decide on blood sugar goals.
What can I eat?
You will need to see a Dietitian to help you understand portion control
and selection of food, but here are some general guidelines to help you
- Stop drinking juice, regular soda, and beverages sweetened with sugar,
honey, etc. until you see the Dietitian.
- Stay away from the “whites”—white flour, white bread,
white potatoes, white pasta, and white rice.
- Add more color into your diet—more vegetables and a few pieces of
fruit each day.
- Add more fiber to your diet—whole grains, vegetables and some fruit.
- Eat lean sources of protein—lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, etc.
- Use good fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts) instead of saturated fats or
transfatty acids (meat products and most baked goods).
How do the medications work?
Scientists are developing new medications all the time for diabetes. The
nurse will help you know what your medications do, and potential side
effects of the medications. The medications work in different ways. There
are even many different types of insulin. In general,
- Insulin helps to move sugar into the cells for energy.
- Help the body release more insulin, or
- Help the body use the insulin better, or
- Help the body store energy better—stop releasing extra sugar into
the blood, or
- Help to keep certain carbohydrates from raising the blood sugar
Do I have to test my blood sugar? Will it hurt?
We believe that everyone with diabetes or pre-diabetes should test their
blood sugar. This does not necessarily mean that you will have to test
everyday—it all depends on the type of diabetes you have and the
kind of medications you are using. Our nurses will show you the essentially
painless way to test your blood sugar at home.
Can I live my life without complications?
There are significant research studies that prove that if you take care
of yourself you can avoid or delay the complications associated with uncontrolled
diabetes. Two major research studies were the Diabetes Control and Complications
Trial, 1993 and the United Kingdom Diabetes Prospective Study, 1998.