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Diabetes Simplified: A Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle with Diabetes. By Our April Student Pharmacist, Cambree Fillis.

Understanding Diabetes:

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease state characterized by high blood sugar. It increases the risk for complications including heart and blood vessel disease(s).

In type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Patients with type 1 diabetes will almost always need prescription insulin, as insulin is needed for the body to turn the sugar consumed from meals into energy.

In type 2 diabetes, the body may still be able to produce some insulin during early stages, but it cannot use it effectively. Type 2 diabetes is also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. The majority of patients with diabetes have type 2.

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What are some warning signs and symptoms of diabetes?

Warning signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • excess thirst
  • excess hunger
  • extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • frequent urination
  • blurred vision
  • irritability
  • slow wound healing
  • dry skin
  • tingling or numbness in hands and/or feet 

Why is it important to be mindful of elevated blood sugar levels?

Being able to avoid spikes in blood sugar allows for a longer, healthier life. Individuals who maintain a normal blood sugar level tend to have more energy and a better immune system capable of fighting off infections. Keeping your blood sugar under control also decreases the risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney injury, nerve pain, vision loss, and more.

Managing the ABCs of Diabetes and Incorporating Lifestyle Modifications

What are the ABCs of diabetes?

A1c: A1c is a measure of average blood sugar level over the course of three months. Your A1c provides a picture of how well blood sugar is controlled over time. An ideal A1c goal for the average adult, according to the American Diabetes Association, is 7%. By maintaining this goal and keeping diabetes under control, disease progression and risk of long term complications are reduced.

Blood Pressure: The higher an individual’s blood pressure readings are, the harder their heart is working. If the heart is working too hard, those individuals are at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. For patients with diabetes, it is important to maintain a blood pressure goal of less than 140/90.

Cholesterol: There are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, is responsible for blocking blood vessels. Blockage can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other complications. Prescription medications known as statins can be used to lower cholesterol levels and are recommended for most patients with diabetes between the ages of 40 and 75. Discuss with your doctor if starting a statin would be right for you.

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What are appropriate lifestyle modifications?

  • Eat Well – Consider foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats, sugar, and salt. Substitute juice and regular soda with water. When eating a full meal, the American Diabetes Association provides recommendations to fill half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with lean protein.
  • Stay Active – A good starting place is to take three, ten minute walks daily. You can also increase your muscle strength by doing yoga, gardening, or with push-ups twice a week.
  • Quit Smoking – Talk to your pharmacist if you need advice on what resources are available to help you to quit.
  • Adhere to Medication Regimens
  • Monitor and Log Daily Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure Readings

Routine Eye, Foot, and Dental Care is Key

Eye Care: Diabetes may cause vision problems over time, including blindness. It is essential to see an eye doctor for an annual, dilated eye exam.

Foot Care: Diabetes may result in the loss of feeling and sensation in extremities, especially feet. It is important to visually exam each foot every day for blisters, burns, cuts, or sores. A visit to the foot doctor should be scheduled each year.

Other tips include:

  • Wash feet every day with warm (not hot) water
  • Do not soak feet
  • Dry feet thoroughly, including in between each toe
  • Apply lotion as needed to avoid dry and/or cracking skin
  • Do not walk barefoot

Dental Care: Diabetes can cause gum and teeth problems. Practicing good dental hygiene is important. Schedule an appointment to see a dentist at least once a year.

Also consider the following:

  • Use fluoride-containing toothpaste
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages

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Recommended Vaccinations

What vaccinations are recommended for adults with diabetes and why?

Diabetes tends to weaken the immune system, making it more difficult to fight off infections. Some of the more serious complications, however, can be prevented by receiving the proper vaccinations. These complications may otherwise lead to hospitalizations and sometimes even fatalities.

Adults, especially those with diabetes, should receive vaccines for the flu, pneumonia, tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (Tdap), and shingles. Stop by the pharmacy to get your questions answered and to receive your vaccinations!

  • Influenza Vaccine – An annual flu shot will protect against the seasonal influenza virus. If you are 65 years or older, ask for the high dose.
  • Pneumococcal Vaccines – Pneumococcal vaccines will protect you from pneumonia. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out which pneumonia shot(s) are right for you- more than one vaccine may be required.
  • Tdap Vaccine – The Tdap vaccine will protect you from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. You should receive this once every 10 years.
  • Zoster Vaccine – The most effective zoster vaccine is known as Shingrix. It protects against shingles in adults 50 years and older. You should receive two doses of the vaccine.

Resources:

  1. American Diabetes Association (ADA). Statistics About Diabetes. Last reviewed March 2018.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. 2017.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Working Together to Manage Diabetes: A Toolkit. February 2016.
  4. National Diabetes Education Program. National Institute of Diabetes. 4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life. January 2016.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC. What You Need to Know About Diabetes and Adult Vaccines. August 2018.

 

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