Diabetes diagnoses increased more than 380 percent between 1988 and 2014, according to statistics compiled by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
This condition now afflicting more than 30 million adults and children in the U.S. alone.
The ADA further states that this medical condition characterized by higher-than-normal blood sugar also takes the lives of more Americans per year than breast cancer and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) put together.
Just as alarming is the prevalence of prediabetes, a condition the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, but not high enough to qualify for a diagnosis of diabetes.
This condition affects roughly 85 million Americans according to the CDC—a number that represents more than one out of every four people—with around 90 percent of these individuals not even realizing that they’re in a pre-diabetic state.
As November is American Diabetes Month, this is a perfect time to help diabetic patients learn how to better manage their disease.
It’s also a great opportunity to educate others about the prevalence of prediabetes and what actions can potentially prevent this condition from progressing into a full-blown diabetes diagnosis.
Helping the diabetic patient
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) states that there are four things diabetics can do to help them effectively manage their disease.
The first involves educating themselves about the type of diabetes they have, which generally falls into one of three categories:
- Type 1: The body doesn’t make insulin
- Type 2: The body is inefficient at making and/or using insulin
- Gestational diabetes: Diabetes that occurs during pregnancy
Encourage them to speak with all of their health care providers to learn as much as they can about their particular type. They should also seek advice as to how to live with diabetes so that it doesn’t prevent them from having the life they want. Also talk with them about how much better they will feel when properly managing their blood sugar levels.
The second thing the NIDDK suggests diabetics do is “know your diabetes ABCs.” The A refers to the A1C test used to measure blood sugar levels over a three-month timeframe, a number that gives a big-picture view of whether the diabetes is stable or progressing. The B is for blood pressure and C is for cholesterol, two factors that can increase diabetics’ risk of cardiovascular problems.
Third, finding ways to live with this condition can give diabetics the highest quality of life possible. This involves lowering stress levels; eating a low-calorie, low-fat, low-sugar and low-salt diet; increasing physical activity levels; taking medications as prescribed; quitting smoking; and checking their body every day while looking for any issues that could potentially indicate that their diabetes may be getting worse.
The fourth thing the NIDDK recommends diabetics do to manage their health condition is to have regular medical check-ups, preferably two a year or more. At each visit, have them ask their health care provider whether there are any tests that should be performed.
It also helps if they keep their own record of each visit, what tests were done, and the results so they can quickly see whether their condition is being properly managed or if changes need to be made.
Recommendations for patients with prediabetes
Because a majority of people with prediabetes don’t even realize they have it, the first step is to help them identify if they may, in fact, be prediabetic.
Healthline states that risk factors associated with prediabetes, also known as borderline diabetes, include:
- Being overweight
- Having high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- Being inactive
- A family history of diabetes
- Having a baby over 9 pounds in weight
If the patient has one or more of these risk factors and is concerned about being prediabetic, his or her doctor can do tests to find out for sure. In the meantime, there are a few things they can do to live a healthier lifestyle, one that supports more stable blood sugar levels.
For instance, if the patient is overweight, losing weight can reduce the risk of becoming diabetic, according to Healthline. Eating a diet rich in whole foods and complex carbohydrates is part of this, with a focus on consuming foods that are low on the glycemic index, some of which include steel-cut oats, stone-ground whole wheat bread, beans, sweet potatoes, and corn. Increasing physical activity is beneficial as well.
Diabetes and prediabetes are both major health concerns in Americans today. However, with your help, patients can begin to take more control over their blood sugar levels, giving them a healthier—and happier—life in return.