As a Nurse Educator, I work with patients across the Coastal Bend with a variety of chronic illnesses, but I focus on diabetes because many patients have the disease, especially type 2 diabetes.
An estimated 29.1 million people in the U.S. (or 9.3 percent of the population) have diabetes. Of that number, 8.1 million don’t know they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the state, with some 2.5 million Texans affected by the disease, according to University Health System.
The other diabetes is type 1 diabetes, which can strike at any age. People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin for the rest of their lives.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes carry the constant threat of devastating complications, if not properly managed.
Anyone can develop type 2 diabetes. It’s known as a lifestyle disease, often due to inactivity and eating a lot of caustic foods – fatty foods, sugary foods, high carb foods, or the average American diet. Most diabetes patients – 90-95 percent – have type 2 diabetes. Most are overweight or obese. Insulin resistance increases with excess weight and/or increased body fat in the abdominal area.
If you get type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you will have it for the rest of your life, but it can be managed. I tell patients they have to learn to live with the disease daily by taking their medications as prescribed, eating healthy with more fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and following up diligently with their primary care physician.
The best remedy for any disease is not to get it in the first place. There is ample research to suggest there are steps we can take to minimize the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
I see a number of patients with prediabetes, meaning their blood sugars and screening test puts them at high risk for diabetes. Many attend my classes to learn how to prevent prediabetes from developing to a diagnosis of diabetes.
Hemoglobin A1C is a blood test showing the average amount of sugar (glucose) in our blood over the past three months, telling us how well our blood sugar is being controlled over time. Class attendees tend to see their A1C level decrease.
Here are some things you can do to lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, or managing it:
Increase physical activity after you have been cleared by your doctor
- Keep an activity log for a week or two. Use a pedometer or phone app to track steps. Aim to work up to 10,000 steps at a minimum every day.
- Join a friend or family member for a walk or to go to the gym. Having a buddy will encourage you to get moving.
- Lift light weights a few times a week. You do not need to purchase fancy weights. A can of soup or bottled water will work.
- Try a new activity, like a yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or dance classes. Many are available at no cost to anyone age 55 and older at senior centers like the Zavala Senior Center, 510 Osage Street, Corpus Christi, TX.
- Get up and move every 60 minutes if you sit for long periods of time.
Eating Well, Eating Healthy
Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do, especially if you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic.
Here are some guidelines on what healthy eating looks like:
- Three main nutrients are needed in every meal: Protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats
- Benefits of healthy eating can lead result in:
- Weight loss (5 percent of initial body weight has been shown to improve A1C goals)
- Blood sugar under control
- Reduced cholesterol and blood pressure
- Serving size – 3 oz, about the size of a deck of cards
- Lean protein is always the best (tips: anything that ends in “loin”
- Tenderloin, sirloin, etc.
- At least 93 % lean when buying at supermarket
- Skinless/boneless chicken breast is always best
There’s much more to know and much more to learn about living with diabetes. A great way to do that is to participate in our WellMed Diabetes Education Classes. There is no charge. You can register for those classes at our toll-free number: 1-855-838-5050.
Evette Silvas is a BSN-RN with WellMed Medical Management.