Diabetes is a serious condition that is becoming more common every day. This disease affects more than 37.3 million people in the U.S., which is about 11.3% of the population.
In Indiana, more than 12% of adults have type 2 diabetes; in Kentucky, that percentage is well over 13. This is a growing health concern, as diabetes contributes to so many other problems that lead to death, such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which your body cannot properly absorb glucose from your bloodstream. Glucose is what gives your cells energy, and we get glucose when our bodies break down food – specifically carbohydrates. Insulin is the hormone that allows your cells to take in glucose and use it for energy. Think of insulin as the key that unlocks the doors in the cells and allows glucose to enter. If that key isn’t working, you cannot properly get energy into the cells.
In Type 1 Diabetes, your body produces no insulin at all – there are no keys to open the doors in the cells. People with Type 1 diabetes must have insulin to survive. For those with Type 2 diabetes, your body isn’t making enough insulin or the insulin you are producing does not work the way it should – the keys you have are bent or the cells have changed the locks. People with type 2 diabetes may or may not have to take insulin.
How is it Diagnosed?
Diabetes is most commonly diagnosed though blood tests called the Hemoglobin A1C and the Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test. The A1C test measures your long-term blood glucose level, and the FPG test checks your current blood sugar level after fasting for at least 8 hours. If your A1C is 6.5 or above and/or your FPG is 126 or above, you are considered to have diabetes.
How Did this Happen?
While we may not fully understand all the mechanisms behind why Type 2 diabetes develops, we do know what many of the risk factors are:
- Family History: If people in your family have had diabetes, you are more likely to have it, too.
- Obesity: Being overweight contributes to your likelihood of developing diabetes.
- Lifestyle: If you are inactive overall or even just spend a lot of time sitting, your risk is greater.
- Ethnicity: Your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is greater if you are of African American, Asian, Hispanic, or Indigenous ancestry.
We can’t control our family history or ethnicity, but we can affect our lifestyle and weight, too, thus reducing our chances of getting Type 2 diabetes.
What does this mean for me?
You may be thinking, “I can just take some medications and then I’ll be fine,” but that isn’t exactly the case. Since this is a disease that affects the blood, it affects all the systems of the body:
- Circulatory System: With uncontrolled blood sugar, the inner linings of your blood vessels get damaged over time, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and other issues.
- Eyes: The small blood vessels in the eyes become damaged, and this can lead to diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular degeneration – both of which can leave you blind.
- Kidneys: The kidneys filter out wastes and toxins. They are harmed by trying to remove all of the excess sugar, which can lead to chronic kidney disease or even dialysis and kidney failure.
- Nervous system: Too much sugar in your blood wears on the outer coating of your nerves causing nerve damage. This will usually begin in the extremities and is called “diabetic neuropathy.” This can lead to tingling, pain, and numbness.
- Skin: Wounds are slow to heal due to poor circulation and high blood sugar creates a very hospitable environment for bacteria, which can mean continuous wound treatment or even amputation.
What Should I Do Now?
Luckily advancements in medications and monitoring devices in the recent years have made this disease state much more manageable and with better outcomes. The Deaconess Diabetes Center is here to help guide you to those advancements and access them for your benefit.
Our educators can help you find the way that is best for YOU to take control of your disease and live well. Our comprehensive education series focuses on lifestyle changes, glucose monitoring, medication management, meal planning, exercise, foot care, insulin management, and so much more. We can teach you how to test your blood sugar, when to test it, and how to track it. We can help you with a continuous glucose monitor as well.
We offer convenient group classes in three different locations at various times of the year that will aid you in learning how to control blood sugars and take the best care of yourself possible.
Reserving a spot with us is easy! We can set up an appointment for an individual assessment in our offices first and then coordinate the best plan for you. A doctor’s referral is requested, but we can work through obtaining this with you and your doctor upon scheduling the appointment. Call us today and get started living your best diabetes life!