Grasping the breadth and depth of diabetes is challenging because this disease is sneaky at first, however it impacts organs and causes a host of health issues over time. When sugar levels are out of control the immune system is opened to all sorts of attacks.
Myth: Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.
Fact: If you manage your diabetes properly, you can prevent or delay diabetes complications. However, diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes.
Fact: Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Unfortunately, too many people disregard the other risk factors for diabetes and think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.
Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: The answer is not so simple. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease; type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.
Being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people should limit their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages to help prevent diabetes. Sugar-sweetened beverages include beverages like:
-other sugary drinks
These will raise blood glucose and can provide several hundred calories in just one serving!
Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 150 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrate. This is the same amount of carbohydrate in 10 teaspoons of sugar! One cup of fruit punch and other sugary fruit drinks have about 100 calories (or more) and 30 grams of carbohydrate.
Myth: People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods.
Fact: A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone – low in fat (especially saturated and trans fat), moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on whole grain foods, vegetables and fruit. Diabetic and “dietetic” foods generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are usually more expensive and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.
Myth: If you have diabetes, you should only eat small amounts of starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta.
Fact: Starchy foods can be part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas and corn can be included in your meals and snacks. Wondering how much carbohydrate you can have? A place to start is about 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal, or 3-4 servings of carbohydrate-containing foods. However, you may need more or less carbohydrate at meals depending on how you manage your diabetes. You and your health care team can figure out the right amount for you. Once you know how much carb to eat at a meal, choose your food and the portion size to match.
Myth: People with diabetes can’t eat sweets or chocolate.
Fact: If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes. They are no more “off limits” to people with diabetes than they are to people without diabetes. The key to sweets is to have a very small portion and save them for special occasions so you focus your meal on more healthful foods.
Myth: People with diabetes are more likely to get colds and other illnesses.
Fact: You are no more likely to get a cold or another illness if you have diabetes. However, people with diabetes are advised to get flu shots. This is because any illness can make diabetes more difficult to control, and people with diabetes who do get the flu are more likely than others to go on to develop serious complications.
Myth: Fruit is a healthy food. Therefore, it is O.K. to eat as much of it as you wish.
Fact: Fruit is a healthy food. It contains fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals. Because fruits contain carbohydrates, they need to be included in your meal plan. Talk to your dietitian about the amount, frequency and types of fruits you should eat.
Diabetes and Oral Health
If I Have Diabetes, am I at Risk for Dental Problems?
If your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control.
Other oral problems associated to diabetes include: thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities.
Oral Care Tips for Those with Diabetes
Have a dental checkup at least every six months,or as often as indicated by your dental professional.
Tell your dentist and hygienist you have diabetes and any other medical condition.
Brush for two minutes twice a day with a toothpaste with an anti-gingival / antibacterial ingredient to help prevent gingivitis and one that is accepted by the American Dental Association.
Contact your dentist or hygienist if you experience any of these signs of gum disease:
-Gums that bleed or are red, puffy, swollen or sore
-Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
-Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
-Pus that appears between your teeth and gums
-Constant bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
Read More: American Diabetes Association – Oral Health
Diabetes and Skin Care
Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. As many as one third of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. In fact, such problems are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes. Luckily, most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early.
Good Skin Care
There are several things you can do to head off skin problems:
Keep your diabetes well managed. People with high glucose levels tend to have dry skin and less ability to fend off harmful bacteria. Both conditions increase the risk of infection.
Keep skin clean and dry. Use talcum powder in areas where skin touches skin, such as armpits and groin.
Avoid very hot baths and showers. If your skin is dry, don’t use bubble baths. Moisturizing soaps may help. Afterward, use a standard skin lotion, but don’t put lotions between toes. The extra moisture there can encourage fungus to grow.
Prevent dry skin. Scratching dry or itchy skin can open it up and allow infection to set in. Moisturize your skin to prevent chapping, especially in cold or windy weather.
Treat cuts right away. Wash minor cuts with soap and water. Do not use Mercurochrome antiseptic, alcohol, or iodine to clean skin because they are too harsh. Only use an antibiotic cream or ointment if your doctor says it’s okay. Cover minor cuts with sterile gauze. See a doctor right away if you get a major cut, burn, or infection.
During cold, dry months, keep your home more humid. Bathe less during this weather, if possible.
Use mild shampoos. Do not use feminine hygiene sprays.
See a dermatologist (skin doctor) about skin problems if you are not able to solve them yourself.
Take good care of your feet. Check them every day for sores and cuts. Wear broad, flat shoes that fit well. Check your shoes for foreign objects before putting them on.
Read More: American Diabetes Association – Skin Care
Diabetes and Eye Care
There are steps you can take to avoid eye problems.
First and most important, keep your blood sugar levels under tight control. In the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, people on standard diabetes treatment got retinopathy four times as often as people who kept their blood sugar levels close to normal. In people who already had retinopathy, the condition progressed in the tight-control group only half as often.
These impressive results show that you have a lot of control over what happens to your eyes. Also, high blood sugar levels may make your vision temporarily blurry.
Second, bring high blood pressure under control. High blood pressure can make eye problems worse.
Third, quit smoking.
Fourth, see your eye care professional at least once a year for a dilated eye exam. Having your regular doctor look at your eyes is not enough. Nor is having your eyeglass prescription tested by an optician. Only optometrists and ophthalmologists can detect the signs of retinopathy. Only ophthalmologists can treat retinopathy.
Fifth, see your eye care professional if:
-your vision becomes blurry
-you have trouble reading signs or books
-you see double
-one or both of your eyes hurt
-your eyes get red and stay that way
-you feel pressure in your eye
-you see spots or floaters
-straight lines do not look straight
-you can’t see things at the side as you used to.
When to See an Eye Care Professional
If you are between 10 and 29 years old and have had diabetes for at least 5 years, you should have an annual dilated eye exam.
If you are 30 or older, you should have an annual dilated eye exam, no matter how short a time you have had diabetes. More frequent exams may be needed if you have eye disease.
If you have any changes in your vision.
You should have a dilated eye exam if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
Read More: American Diabetes Association – Eye Care
Diabetes and Foot Care
Inspect your feet every day, and seek care early if you do get a foot injury. Make sure your health care provider checks your feet at least once a year – more often if you have foot problems. Your health care provider should also give you a list and explain the do’s and don’ts of foot care.
Most people can prevent any serious foot problem by following some simple steps. So let’s begin taking care of your feet today.
Your health care provider should perform a complete foot exam at least annually – more often if you have foot problems.
Remember to take off your socks and shoes while you wait for your physical examination.
Call or see your health care provider if you have cuts or breaks in the skin, or have an ingrown nail. Also, tell your health care provider if your foot changes color, shape, or just feels different (for example, becomes less sensitive or hurts).
If you have corns or calluses, your health care provider can trim them for you. Your health care provider can also trim your toenails if you cannot do so safely.
Because people with diabetes are more prone to foot problems, a foot care specialist may be on your health care team.
Caring for Your Feet
There are many things you can do to keep your feet healthy.
Take care of your diabetes. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose in your target range.
Check your feet every day. Look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
Be more active. Plan your physical activity program with your health team.
Ask your doctor about Medicare or insurance coverage for special shoes.
TWash your feet every day. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes.
Keep your skin soft and smooth. Rub a thin coat of skin lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes. Read more about skin care.
If you can see and reach your toenails, trim them when needed. Trim your toenails straight across and file the edges with an emery board or nail file.
Wear shoes and socks at all times. Never walk barefoot. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure the lining is smooth and there are no objects inside.
Protect your feet from hot and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Don’t put your feet into hot water. Test water before putting your feet in it just as you would before bathing a baby. Never use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets. You can burn your feet without realizing it.
Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes, two (2) or three (3) times a day. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time. Don’t smoke.
Get started now. Begin taking good care of your feet today. Set a time every day to check your feet.
Read More: American Diabetes Association – Foot Care
How Stress Affects Diabetes
In people with diabetes, stress can alter blood glucose levels in two ways:
People under stress may not take good care of themselves.
-They may drink more alcohol or exercise less. They may forget, or not have time, to check their glucose levels or plan good meals.
Stress hormones may also alter blood glucose levels directly.
-The effects in people with type 1 diabetes are more mixed. While most people’s glucose levels go up with mental stress, others’ glucose levels can go down.
-In people with type 2 diabetes, mental stress often raises blood glucose levels. Physical stress, such as illness or injury, causes higher blood glucose levels in people with either type of diabetes.
Diabetes Research – Diabetes and Sleep
A new study from the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago suggests that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy reduces glucose levels and improves morning glycemic control in type 2 diabetics who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Results show that one week of optimal CPAP use lowered average 24-hour glucose levels and improved post-breakfast glucose response. The dawn phenomenon, an early-morning increase in blood sugar in people who have type 2 diabetes, also was reduced by 45 percent as a result of CPAP therapy.
Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine