Managing your diabetes

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Good advice: Dr. Derek Gasper, a physician at Porter Regional Hospital in Valparaiso, Ind., said the best treatment for diabetes is prevention. | Supplied photo

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The rise of diabetes has reached epidemic numbers, and, if current trends continue, the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that one in three U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2050.

“We’re seeing more and more diabetes these days and in younger patients all the time,” said Derek Gasper, D.O., family medicine physician with Glendale Primary Care, and a part of the medical staff at Porter Regional Hospital. Awareness is the first step in curbing the diabetes epidemic, according to Gasper.

“Diabetes can be prevented in many cases and easily managed in others. But if you don’t take it seriously, complications can arise such as kidney failure, vision loss, heart attacks and amputations,” he said.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, accounting for more than 85 percent of the diabetics in this country. Yet, this type of diabetes is largely preventable.

“Type 2 diabetes means your body has a problem handling blood sugar. It’s tired of having too much sugar put in. It’s full,” said Gasper. “I explain it to my patients like this: ‘Your cells need glucose – blood sugar – for energy. And you need insulin to let this glucose into your cells. Insulin is like the key to the door, which lets this important glucose in. When you’re a type 2 diabetic, the door within your cells gets sticky. Without help, complications may arise that can even be life-threatening.’”

Good news about prediabetes

Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have “prediabetes” — blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

“The good news is that prediabetes doesn’t need to lead to diabetes,” Gasper said. “I recently had a female patient diagnosed with prediabetes. The news motivated her. We worked together on a fitness plan and instead of becoming diabetic; she worked to lose 35 pounds. She was even able to stop taking her blood pressure medication.”

Metabolic syndrome and diabetes

“Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that set the stage for future health problems,” Gasper said. Patients with metabolic syndrome have a combination of high blood pressure, central waist obesity (elevated belly fat), high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, patients with metabolic syndrome are five times more likely to develop diabetes.

The anti-diabetes lifestyle

To reduce your chances for developing diabetes, the formula is simple: Eat a sensible diet and increase your exercise level so that you’re burning off what you’re taking in, Gasper said.

“We’re supposed to be hunters and gatherers, but instead we’re eating 1,200-calorie meals. We eat way too many calories for our needs,” he said.

According to the American Diabetes Association, research shows that you can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58 percent by losing 7 percent of your body weight (that’s 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds), and exercising moderately (such as brisk walking) 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Don’t wait for symptoms!

“Unfortunately, the symptoms of diabetes aren’t noticeable until the disease has advanced,” Gasper said.

These symptoms may include blurry vision, insatiable thirst, frequent urination, fatigue and weakness. Patients may also experience neuropathy (pain or numbness in hands or feet), or notice that their urine is foamy (indicating protein in the urine). “Obviously, if a patient has these symptoms, they should be seen immediately for a diagnosis and treatment. Diabetes is treatable, but the best treatment is prevention.”

Get tested

Porter Regional Hospital offers free blood sugar screenings, as well as free screenings for other diabetes risk factors, such as blood pressure and body mass index. For more information about screenings, visit porterhealth.com.

Dr. Gasper is a member of the medical staff at Porter Regional Hospital and a member of the Porter Physician Group. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Gasper at Glendale Primary Care, call (219) 464-9521.

Provided by Porter Regional Hospital