Diabetes is a condition where your body is unable to properly break down and regulate its glucose levels. All types of this condition are treatable, but there is no known cure. Types 1 and 2 last a lifetime, while gestational diabetes is present only during pregnancy.
It Isn’t just about watching your blood sugar levels. Diabetes is a major risk factor for both stroke and heart disease. People with diabetes are at least twice as likely to experience a stroke or develop heart disease.
Despite the fact the condition is lifelong and has no known cure, diabetes can be successfully managed to the point where its effects on your life are minimized. If you are experiencing symptoms of diabetes (frequent urination, excessive thirst, shakiness in the limbs, etc.), be sure to consult with your doctor immediately. Left untreated, diabetes can be fatal.
There are a few things you can do to make sure the condition does not cause damage in your life:
- Eat a healthy diet. First, it is important to significantly reduce the amount of fat and sodium present in your diet. Replace these foods with fruits, vegetables, nonfat dairy products, and whole grains.
- Exercise. You will want to get 30 to 60 minutes of fairly vigorous exercise (walking quickly) most days of the week.
- If you have changes in your eyesight, be sure to let your doctor know right away.
- Cope with stress effectively. Make sure you have a friend or spouse to vent your anxious feelings to.
- Check your feet regularly for sores and swelling.
- If you smoke, quit.
Points to Remember:
- If you have diabetes, you are at least twice as likely as other people to have heart disease or a stroke.
- Controlling the ABCs of diabetes—A1C (blood glucose), blood pressure, and cholesterol—can cut your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Choosing foods wisely, being physically active, losing weight, quitting smoking, and taking medications (if needed) can all help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- If you have any warning signs of a heart attack or a stroke, get medical care immediately—don’t delay. Early treatment of heart attack and stroke in a hospital emergency room can reduce damage to the heart and the brain.
Diabetes Success Stories
Dr. Fadul, diagnosed a patient with Type II diabetes and he started to educate her about it. She learned about lifestyle changes that could affect her health. “I started to journal what I ate right away,” she recalls. “I looked at my portions, and I ate way too many carbs. And I wasn’t eating enough fruits and vegetables.” Logging each of her meals helped her overhaul her diet by identifying mindless munching and flat-out unhealthy food choices. And rewarding herself with a once-a-month splurge meal gave her a reason to stay on track the rest of the time.
Exercise also played a critical role, though the patient will admit it wasn’t pleasant at first. “I got out, I walked around the block, and I thought I was going to die,” she says. Now she tracks her steps with a pedometer and gets more quality time with her husband since they’re walking partners. She’s lost 100 pounds, lowered her blood pressure and cholesterol enough to quit medications, and dropped nearly 3 percentage points on her A1C. Though sustaining her healthy habits takes daily determination, she is glad she can take charge of her health. “Remembering those in my family who had passed because of cancer,” she says, “I knew that had they been given the chance for making things better with diet and exercise, they would have jumped at the chance.”
Another story with this patient who even before he was diagnosed was no stranger to diabetes. His father and three of his mother’s siblings have diabetes; his maternal grandfather died of complications of diabetes; and two uncles lost limbs because of uncontrolled blood glucose. He was diagnosed with type 2 about 15 years ago and he wasn’t ready to overhaul his lifestyle. “I was in denial for a long time, and I thought, ‘I can handle this with shots.’ I thought, ‘I don’t need [diet and exercise],’ ” he says, when he was talking to Dr. Fadul.
Over the years, the patient gained motivation. “I needed to see my children graduate at least from high school. I wanted to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary,” he says, rattling off the goals that inspired him. He threw away his oversized plates and started using smaller ones to downsize his portions. He learned to turn meals laden with fat, sodium, and carbohydrates into diabetes-friendly dishes. Then, when his daughter suggested that they join a gym a year and a half ago, he accepted. He has walked the treadmill three days a week since. He started to go walking to his work and when his children were both married this fall, he was able to dance at their weddings!