What disease can rob you of your vision, freeze up your GI tract, steal your sense of touch, obliterate your kidneys and wreak havoc on your blood vessels causing strokes or heart attacks? DIABETES
What can put you in a wheelchair with an amputated leg while you sit blindly in a dialysis unit? DIABETES
What disease effects 1 in 4 people age 65+ and 27 million Americans overall? DIABETES
What disease costs an estimated $245 BILLION in 2012 in the US alone for direct medical cost and lost wages? DIABETES
As I looked over new diabetic education handouts that arrived at my office, the cover floored me. Lots of smiling people who appear to be on the best vacation of their lives with not a care in the world.
These people aren’t my folks who I treat with diabetes.
The covers screamed, “It’s just ‘this sugar thing’ that you go to your doctor, get a lecture but then the rest of the time, you just do what you want and smile.” WRONG.
I’m tired of seeing amputations, kidney failure, non-healing ulcers, blindness, strokes, heart attacks and deaths daily because of uncontrolled diabetes. I care way too much to just let this misrepresentation of diabetes perpetuate and these bad consequences happen to you.
Let's have a discussion about the different types.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is due to a lack of certain pancreas cells. By not having these cells, people with type 1 diabetes cannot make their own natural insulin. Type 1 diabetes typically presents itself in childhood or around puberty. Those with type 1 diabetes must take insulin because without it, their bodies cannot function. This type of diabetes only account for about 1.25 million or about 5% people living with diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a whole different beast. Instead of lacking insulin, people with type 2 diabetes have problems with using insulin properly or “insulin resistance”. Meaning, their bodies make insulin but their tissues do not effectively use it. Over time, the particular cells that make insulin slow down and eventually quit making the amount of insulin their body needs.
The worst part-- the number of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing, and in younger people! Factors like little to no exercise, poor dietary habits, obesity, and diabetes in pregnancy increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented but type 2 diabetes can.
Think that it's no big deal to have some extra sugar in your blood? WRONG. It's pretty complex how long standing high blood sugar damages the body so I’ll simply: all that excess glucose (or sugar) acts like sharp rocks thrown again and again and again against the inside of your blood vessels, slowly damaging and tearing apart the proteins.
As these “rocks” of glucose are broken down, they then start to act like sandpaper, irritating cells and cause LOTS of inflammation. Your body tries to send other types of cells to repair these areas but action of the glucose just counteracts this. Soon your blood vessels are “leaky” and glucose starts affects other types of tissue, like your nerves, retinas and other cells outside your blood vessels. See how this can be a big deal?
So, are you thinking, “Just simply cut out sugar and food that contain glucose like bread and pasta from my diet and I’ll be cured of diabetes.” NOPE. The key is to know that there is no special diet that diabetics can eat to rid themselves of glucose because almost everything you consume has some carbohydrate (or sugar).
A healthy diet for a diabetic is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone. Moderating intake of salt and added sugar along with meals based on lean proteins along with non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fruit is the way to go. You must start eating healthier—and eating less!
On the other side, you MUST do some kind of exercise. Find an activity that you enjoy and do it often.
Your doctor can do NOTHING about your diabetes if you don’t take charge yourself. Shocked? That's right, as your doctor, I can’t help you manage your diabetes if you take no interest in helping yourself.
The only person who can change the course of this disease is YOU!
So start asking questions and get educated on what is happening to your body. You are the only one who gets to decide what you eat every day. You are the only one who decides whether to take your medicine or not. I cannot and will not come to every person's home three times a day to make sure you take your insulin or don’t eat that donut. I can’t stand at every restaurant and be the food police. But you can.
Don’t be overwhelmed! You did not become diabetic overnight and you will not improve this condition fully overnight. It takes time, effort and lots of support. You can do this and everyone in the healthcare field is here to help. WE WANT TO HELP.
I can talk until I’m blue in the face about weight loss, healthy eating and exercise. But until you realize why I preach at you is because I care, diabetes will continue to claim lives.