Learn more about Diabetes

by Aurora Diaz, MS APN ANP-BC CDE, Clinical Manager for Provena Mercy Medical Center’s Center for Diabetic Wellness.

Hello ladies! This week, I’d like to educate you a bit about Diabetes. Here’s some information you may not know. Diabetes continues to be a growing epidemic.  According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 26 million children and adults living in the United States has diabetes.  18 million have been diagnosed and 7 million are undiagnosed.  But what is even more alarming is that an estimated 79 million people have Pre diabetes.  That’s scary. 

Certain ethnic groups are more at risk for developing diabetes.  Hispanics are one of these groups.  Being overweight is also another significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.  Who else is at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes:

  • People with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and/or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
  • People over age 45
  • People with a family history of diabetes
  • People who are overweight
  • People who do not exercise regularly
  • People with low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives)
  • Women who had gestational diabetes, or who have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth

Although you don’t have diabetes now, it is important that you be aware of the risk factors and get screened.  You are considered at risk because of your age, ethnic background and weight.  The one thing some of my patients tell me consistently when they get newly diagnosed is that they didn’t know they were at risk because no one in their family had diabetes.  You can’t change your age or your ethnic background but you can do something about your weight and that is always a good start.

I often am asked the question, “are there foods I absolutely have to avoid, such as sugar?”  The most recent body of research does seem to be suggesting that an excess of sugar in the diet whether from foods or beverages may put a person at higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes. What is not completely clear is whether the increased risk is due to the sugar itself or the increased weight a person may gain as a result of the additional calories.

When we are carrying extra weight our body can become resistant to the action of the insulin we produce. We have all heard of insulin but what exactly does it do? Insulin’s most important function is to lower the concentration of glucose in your blood.  Shortly after you eat, especially highly processed carbohydrates, your meal is converted to sugar in the blood called glucose.  High levels of blood glucose trigger insulin release and low level suppress it.  (Your primary goal is to maintain lower levels of insulin so that your body can tap into using stored fat for fuel).  When you eat something like a candy bar on an empty stomach, you get a blood sugar surge and your body produces insulin to remove the sugar from your body.  If you repeat this cycle enough times, your pancreas (organ that produces insulin) will over compensate and produce more insulin, which your cells will eventually start to ignore and resist.  This is called insulin resistance.  It is so important that you understand this concept. 

So what can you do?  If I can give people 5 things to start doing, it would definitely have to be the following:

  1. Rethink your Drink!!!! I cannot stress enough to give up the sugary drinks (soda, fruit juice, punch etc.)  If it has High Fructose Corn syrup, don’t drink it.  Energy drinks are a no!  Also, don’t let the light or sugar free drinks fool you either.  At least half of your drink intake should be water.  The goal is to shoot for 64 ounces of water throughout the day.
  2. Eat breakfast.  Your body needs fuel in the morning.  Eating in the morning will help keep you from overeating at lunch or snacking on junk food.  Eating breakfast will help jump start your metabolism rate.  Breakfast should include whole grain foods and protein.
  3. Increase the fiber in your meals.  At least half of your plate should be vegetables during lunch and dinner. Your protein can be the size of a deck of cards if chicken or beef and a check book if it is fish.
  4. Attempt meal consistency.  Eat 3 meals with 3 in between meal snacks.  Fruits and vegetables are great snack options.  So are nuts and seeds.
  5. Attempt to eat complex carbohydrates instead of refined carbohydrates.  Remember that complex carbohydrates come from plants.  Try to avoid refined carbohydrates which will produce those insulin spikes we talked about earlier.  Foods with white flour are processed also.

Remember that insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. Making some small changes in your meal planning can help with prevention.

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