Battling diabetes: Knowledge a powerful management tool

May 2012 Posted in Your Health

By Kristine Thomas

Healthy Mexican-style cooking
Tuesday, May 22, Free
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Dr. Jolson Tharakan of Silverton Health often hears the misconception that eating large amounts of sugar can cause diabetes.

While consuming lots of sugar can make diabetes worse, it’s not what causes diabetes.

Another major misconception is that if you have diabetes, you can never have any sugar, said Silverton Health Registered Dietitian Denise Cedar who teaches Diabetes Living, a comprehensive and interactive diabetes self-management training program.

“The important thing is to control the amounts and timing of sugar,” Cedar said.

The food you eat to fuel your body creates glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, Cedar said. In diabetes, blood glucose levels can become too high and damage the body in many ways.

Cedar said your blood always has some glucose in it because your body needs glucose for energy, adding having too much glucose is unhealthy.

“The pancreas creates insulin which helps glucose get from blood into the muscle cells which use it for energy,” she explained.

When a person has diabetes, his pancreas makes little or no insulin and/or his cells are unable to use the insulin. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC, and a major cause of heart disease and stroke.

Type 1 diabetes – usually diagnosed in children and young adults – happens when the cells in the pancreas that make insulin are destroyed. People with Type 1 diabetes must inject insulin into their body to survive. Cedar said there is no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes which may be caused by autoimmune, genetic or environmental factors. Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include fatigue, weight loss and frequent urination, Tharakan said.

People who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes can control the disease by managing their diet, exercise, weight and stress, Cedar said. People with Type 2 diabetes may also need oral medication and after years of the disease some may need insulin. This is not a sign of failure, it is a sign of diabetes progressing, Cedar said, adding managing diabetes well slows down the progression.

“A change in lifestyle can improve the management of diabetes,” Tharakan said. “If you take steps in your life, it can prevent you from having ramifications from having diabetes, such as heart attacks and strokes. If you make lifestyle changes, you eventually may not need Type 2 medications.”

Type 2 diabetes is more common in people who are overweight, Cedar said, adding it can occur in a person of any weight.

“Type 2 diabetes is part lifestyle and part heredity,” Tharakan said.

Knowledge, problem-solving and coping skills can help manage the disease, Cedar said. “The other misconception about diabetes is that if you get it you are doomed and you are really sick.”

Both Cedar and Tharakan emphasized the importance of patients talking with their doctors if they are concerned or if there is a history of diabetes in the family. If a patient learns he has diabetes, he can ask his physician to refer him to the Diabetes Living program, taught by Cedar and other Registered Dieticians at Silverton Health.

A dietitian meets with each client for an individual assessment. The client then attends training to help understand diabetes, reduce risk factors and develop a plan for living a healthy, active life. After the class, the patient follows up with the dietitian.

“I see people who are encouraged, inspired and empowered by taking the diabetes class,” Cedar said. “When people learn they have diabetes, they often don’t know what to do. After taking the class, they know what they need to do and have the skills to do it.

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