Don’t sugarcoat diabetes diagnosis

Last month one of my students approached me with news that a blood test had shown she had Type 2 diabetes. She was very upset because no one in her family had diabetes and she could not believe she did. She was so upset that all she remembered about her talk with her doctor was that she was to lose 20 pounds, take medication and take a class.

She had gone to her doctor because she was overly tired most of the time and constantly going to the bathroom, two of the most common symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.

The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can sneak up on you over time. Some people have no symptoms at all. Her doctor had run an A1C test to show her blood glucose (sugar) level. The normal range is from 4 to 6. Hers was 6.5 – not high, but definitely out of the “normal” range. Her doctor was being proactive to help her get the situation under control and get healthier.

Together, we went to classes at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way and I am so glad I went because I learned so much about this condition. Here is some good information for you.

What is Type 2 diabetes? Diabetes is a disease that affects nearly 23.6 million people or nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population. It affects your pancreas which makes insulin to help your body absorb glucose from the food you eat for energy needed throughout the day. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your pancreas cannot make enough insulin or cannot make it fast enough.

What are the symptoms of diabetes? No one experiences the entire list of symptoms. Most common are unusual thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, blurry vision and extreme fatigue – to name a few.

What does insulin do? When you eat carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, bread, pasta) your pancreas releases insulin to turn it into glucose – a sugar. Some glucose gets stored in your liver for emergency situations. Most goes into your blood stream to be absorbed into your body’s cells. Cells have little “doors” in them to absorb the glucose. Insulin is the “key” that unlocks those doors to let the glucose in to give you energy. If the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, those “doors” stay locked and the glucose keeps circulating in your blood stream.

Why do I need to test my glucose level? A diabetic tests blood sugar to see how much glucose is “floating around” unabsorbed. This determines how much medication may be needed or indicates how you need to change your diet.

You need to remember that once you are diagnosed you will always have diabetes. It can be controlled, but never goes away. It will take time to get it under control and the process can have lots of ups and downs, but stick with it.

When blood sugars are under control to near normal as possible, the risk of developing problems that diabetes can cause is greatly reduced.

Seniors, diabetes is not a death sentence. Medicine has changed so much in the past 10 years and new discoveries are being made to help you.

We are strong people who have come through tough times in our lives. We can stand up to diabetes and make a plan to help us stay healthy; we can step out into life.

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