Maybe you’re newly diagnosed with diabetes, or maybe you’ve had the disease for several years but are having difficulty with management. What really is diabetes? What has changed in therapy for the past several years? You might even be curious to find out if diabetes can be reversed!
Simply put, diabetes means your body cannot use sugar (glucose) in a normal way. Glucose is energy the body needs and is controlled by insulin, a hormone the pancreas makes. Insulin helps glucose get out of your bloodstream and into your muscles and other tissues to be used for energy. When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose. Simple carbohydrates, such as white rice, white bread and white pasta, are broken down into glucose too quickly, raising your blood glucose levels rapidly. Complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, whole wheat and other grains such as quinoa, take longer to break down into glucose. When you have too much glucose in your blood, it is doing damage to your blood vessels and important organs and can cause complications such as heart problems, kidney damage, amputations, blindness.
There are different types of diabetes. Most adults have type II, which means your pancreas might be working but not very well. Causes of this type of diabetes include being overweight, inactivity, family history, pre-diabetes, race, age and fat distribution.
Road to Recovery
After diagnosis, it is important to make lifestyle habit changes, have regular follow up visits at your doctor or nurse practitioner’s office, and follow the treatment plan. It is also recommended to have yearly eye exams and foot exams. Changes to your lifestyle include exercising on a regular basis, losing weight and dietary changes, which is why diabetes is considered to be a disease of self-management. Participating in diabetic classes can also assist you in improving your knowledge base and self-management.
Surprisingly, there is not one particular diet to which you must adhere. Rather, it is recommended that you center your diet around increasing fiber, fruits, vegetables and limiting calories, saturated fats, sweets, refined (simple) carbohydrates. A plant based diet can also improve your diabetes and possibly reverse it.
There are many different types of medications that can help you manage your diabetes and most of them come in pill form. The oldest medication called Metformin, is still considered the most effective and is usually the first one to be prescribed upon diagnosis. Newer medications that are prescribed can help protect your heart from complications such as a heart attack and stroke.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
A treatment plan will include office visits and monitoring lab work every three to four months, including a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test, which shows the average glucose level over a two-to-three month period. Medications are usually adjusted based upon the A1C test. The target A1C is 7% or less. Normal A1C is <5.6%. Other lab tests to be performed include checking lipids (cholesterol), liver and kidney function.
At your appointment, we will also discuss weight management, blood pressure, circulation problems and medication side effects. It might be recommended for you to have certain procedures performed, such as an EKG, blood pressure monitoring, glucose monitoring or ultrasound of your extremities or heart and stress testing, which are offered in our office.
With hard work and close monitoring, diabetes can be managed with ease and confidence. QCBN
By Tess Barnes, NP-C
With more than two decades in nursing, Tess Barnes, RN, MSN, NP-C, is a trusted health care provider focused on patient-centric care at More MD in Prescott and Surprise, Ariz.