National Diabetes Month 2022
November is National Diabetes Month, a time to spotlight this dangerous disease that comes in three forms: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Below are answers to some of your questions about diabetes, including tips on how to minimize symptoms if you have it or are at risk for developing it.
Q: My niece was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My sister is very upset, but I don’t understand what it is. Could you explain it to me in layman’s terms?
A: Type 1 diabetes is is a chronic autoimmune disease that prevents your pancreas (an organ located in the abdomen) from making insulin. This is problematic because insulin aids in blood sugar (aka glucose, the main sugar found in your blood) entering your cells, which is important. Without insulin, the cells cannot work optimally (or worse), and blood sugar will build up in the bloodstream. The net result can wreak havoc for the body and cause many of the symptoms of diabetes, including damage to the eyes, nervous system, kidneys, feet, skin and mouth. It may also cause pregnancy complications. And if diabetes is left unattended it even has the possibility to be fatal. (All type 1 diabetics require insulin injections for life.)
Q: I hear about Type 2 diabetes a lot, but I’m not sure what that means. Can you explain the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?
A: The primary difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is that Type 1 is believed to be genetic and usually shows up early in life (but can show up in adulthood), while type 2 is more lifestyle related and develops over time. Also, all Type 1 diabetics require insulin injections, whereas a Type 2 diabetic can potentially manage their diabetes through a number of ways, including diet and exercise. Sometimes Type 2 diabetics require insulin.
Q: I heard that diabetics need to be careful of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), but I don’t understand that. I thought diabetics needed to be careful of hyperglycemia (too much blood sugar). What am I getting wrong?
A: While hyperglycemia and diabetes are often associated together, diabetics can become hypoglycemic if they take too much insulin or don’t eat enough. Let me explain. If you have diabetes and need insulin to control your blood sugar (again, all Type 1 diabetics do), taking more insulin than you need can cause your blood sugar level to drop too low and result in hypoglycemia. Symptoms may include hunger, shakiness, sweating and/or other manifestations, depending on the person. (Hyperglycemia symptoms may include lethargy, blurred vision, frequent urination and/or other manifestations, depending on the individual.)
Q: My doctor told my dad that he was “prediabetic.” What does this mean?
A: If you’re prediabetic it means you have higher than normal blood sugar levels (100 to 125 mg/dL), but not high enough to be considered to have Type 2 diabetes. However, someone who is prediabetic can develop Type 2 diabetes if they don’t make lifestyle changes (see the question below for suggestions).
Q: My doctor told me my son is prediabetic. What can I do?
A: Good question. There are a few key things that can help prevent him from developing Type 2 diabetes. The first is ensuring healthy food habits, which includes foods high in fiber. A good source of this is fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Second, maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, it’s very important to eat less and exercise more to attain a weight that’s going to minimize your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. The third major recommendation I’ve already referred to, exercise. Even if you’re naturally thin it’s still important to exercise as using muscles helps burn glucose and supports the way insulin works. Fourth, try to avoid refined and processed carbohydrates that your body digests quickly, thus causing a spike in blood sugar; if you’re prediabetic, it’s likely that it’s difficult for your body to lower blood sugar levels. Finally, stay up to date on your vaccinations, including the flu vaccine and COVID-19 boosters (if you’re eligible, health-wise; ask your physician).
Q: Is there a cure for diabetes?
A: No, there is not a cure for diabetes. But maintaining a healthy lifestyle can minimize issues associated with the disease and the recommendations suggested for people who are prediabetic (above) also go for people who already have diabetes of any kind.
This information is for educational purposes. Please consult your physician for any medical issues. For more information about VNA services, call 321-752-7550 or visit www.vnatc.com.