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Feature of the Month: Diabetes Awareness by Chimene Mathurin


National Diabetes Month

Having been a Registered Nurse for 3 years and a Licensed Practical Nurse for 4 years prior to receiving my Bachelor’s in nursing, I’ve seen countless patients with numerous medical conditions. However, because November is National Diabetes Month, it’s only right that I focus on this disease process that currently affects 30 million Americans and has the potential to affect 86 million more.  Every 19 seconds someone in the US is diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus, or diabetes for short. I’m here to provide some information on diabetes, its effects, and some ways we can prevent or lessen its effects, especially in the African American community.

I currently work in a Vascular Thoracic Intensive Care Unit which sees patients for diseases of circulation and blood flow. It is very common to see patients who suffer from both diabetes and vascular issues as those usually go hand in hand. The biggest population that I see suffer with this are African Americans. We all probably know someone who is diabetic or has “the sugar,” as some like to say. Despite education attempts, African Americans are eighty percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than their non-Hispanic white counterparts (http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlID=18).

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a disease that prevents your body from properly using the glucose (sugar) you get from food. Glucose is used by the body for energy. Without a hormone named insulin, the glucose will just sit in your blood cells and build up, which is called hyperglycemia (high glucose).

There are two main classifications of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. DM Type 1 occurs when your pancreas makes little to no insulin. This type is usually diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood. Type 2 happens when your pancreas makes some insulin, but it is not being used as it should because you’ve developed insulin resistance. DM Type 2 is usually diagnosed in overweight adults. Type 1 diabetics are required to use insulin injections because of the fact that their pancreas does not produce enough insulin. However, type 2 diabetics may be able to control their disease with proper diet, exercise, and oral medications (sometimes insulin injections are used as well). Hunger, frequent thirst, and frequent urination are the classic signs for undiagnosed DM. Also, poor wound healing and numbness/tingling in the hands and feet can be experienced.

As a member of the African American community myself, I have a vested interest in making sure we are as healthy as possible. In writing this blog post, I wanted to reach out because I have seen too many patients ignore their symptoms or attribute them to something else. I recently had a 33-year-old African American patient who presented with blood sugar levels in the 300 – 400s. The normal blood sugar level in a healthy adult is 70-110. His levels were extremely high, putting him at risk for Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which is a life threatening coma. However, this patient honestly didn’t care what his sugar levels were, he just wanted to continue to eat. The fact is diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/myths/#sthash.w84PucBY.dpuf). It is something that needs to be taken very seriously as its consequences can be devastating. At best, you can lose eyesight or a limb. At worst, you can go into renal failure, a coma, or even die.


National Diabetes Month

Since DM affects so many in our population, I think is truly important that we all know the status of our health and make steps to reduce our risk. The first step is getting regular checkups and labwork. A doctor can talk to you about your weight and risk of developing diabetes. Also, family history does play a large part, so make sure to get a physical if diabetes runs in your family. There are ways to prevent your risk. Research shows that if you lose 7% of your total body weight (15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds) you can decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes by 58%. Moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) 30 minutes a day, five days a week can also decrease your risk.

Diabetes is not a death sentence. Millions live and thrive even after being diagnosed. As long as you pay attention to yourself, exercise in moderation, and keep track of our blood glucose levels you’ll lead a healthy life with DM. The theme for this year’s American Diabetes Month is “Eat Well, America!” Nutrition is a huge part of maintaining your health with DM. Diabetes does not automatically mean you have to stay away from all sugars. Eating delicious and nutritious meals can go a long way to improving your health. Eat Well so you can LiveLifeWell and lead long, healthy lives.

*Disclaimer – As a medical professional, I don’t claim that the information provided in this post is the authority on diabetes. Please visit the American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/ and consult your physician for more information.

 

Thanks so my sorority sister and close friend, Chimene Mathurin, for giving us a wealth of information about diabetes! Awareness is the first step in prevention. In honor of National Diabetes Month, let’s do our part to raise awareness about this devastating disease. What are you doing to prevent diabetes and make your health a priority?

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