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Learn the Ins and Outs of Diabetes

November 22, 2011

Seminar Offers Tips for Keeping Diabetes Under Control

Diabetes is a serious disease that raises your risk for a number of other health problems, including heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, and eye problems. If you have diabetes, you are not alone. About 26 million Americans have the chronic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The number of people with diabetes has been rising over the last few decades," said Dr. Archana Bindra, a local endocrinologist who is a member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "People with diabetes need to learn how to keep the disease under control to prevent complications."

She will present "Diabetes Update" on Thursday, December 1. The presentation is part of Washington Hospital’s free monthly Diabetes Matters education series held the first Thursday of every month at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. You can register online at www.whhs.com, or call (510) 745-6556 for more information.

Bindra will provide an overview of diabetes, including the physiology of the disease, health complications associated with diabetes, and tips for better managing it. She will also answer questions.

To understand diabetes, you need to first know how the body processes food, Bindra said. Most of the food you eat is turned into glucose that the body uses for energy. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that helps this process, she explained. But people with diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or their bodies don’t use it properly, which allows too much glucose to build up in the blood.

People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin. Type 1 accounts for about 5 percent of all diabetes cases, according to the CDC. The vast majority of people with diabetes have type 2, which is mainly caused by obesity, according to Bindra.

"The fat cells in the body prevent the uptake of insulin," she explained.

High levels of glucose in the blood can damage nerves and blood vessels over time, which is why it can cause heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death among people with diabetes, according to Bindra. Uncontrolled diabetes can eventually lead to other health problems as well, such as vision loss, kidney failure, and amputations.

Preventing Complications

"The best way to keep diabetes under control and prevent complications is to test glucose levels regularly, take medications properly, eat right, and exercise," Bindra said. "You also need to work closely with your health care team."

Testing blood glucose levels several times throughout the day is important for monitoring how well your body is reacting to the food you eat and medicines you take. There are a number of meters on the market that make it fairly easy, according to Bindra.

She will also discuss the importance of the A1C test for keeping diabetes under control, which shows your average blood glucose level over the last three months. The A1C test shows how your body is doing over time, which allows you to see how your diabetes treatment plan is working to control the disease.

Diet and exercise are critical lifestyle choices that have a significant impact on diabetes, according to Bindra. People with diabetes need to limit their intake of carbohydrates and control portion sizes. She said a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins will not only help to keep diabetes under control, but also weight.

"People with diabetes need to maintain a healthy weight," she said. "With an increased risk for heart disease, those with diabetes also need to eat a heart healthy diet to keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. Exercise is also critical. If you have diabetes, you need to get moving."

Keeping diabetes under control is a big job, which is why Bindra recommends working closely with your health care team. Physicians, diabetes educators, and other health care providers can help prevent complications.

"It’s important to get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly as well as your eyes and feet," she said. "Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you get a checkup. There are so many things to think about when you have diabetes, and your health care team can help."

To learn more about Diabetes Matters and other diabetes programs at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/diabetes.