Diabetes Education and Awareness
Are You at Risk?
When Earle F. entered the intensive care unit (ICU) at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center (UM SJMC), his blood sugar level “was well over 600—dangerously high,” he recalls with a shudder. “He was very sick when he came to the hospital,” says UM SJMC outpatient certified diabetes educator Patti McGraw, RN, BSN, CDE.
Earle went to see his primary care physician because he was feeling lightheaded. He admits prior to this he had not seen his doctor on a regular basis because he was embarrassed about his weight gain. He was shocked when his doctor told him he was seriously ill with diabetes and sent him directly to the hospital. Earle admits that he had the common symptoms of frequent urination and thirst, as well as “one high sugar reading” in the past but did not follow up.
The road to developing diabetes began, he believes, when he gained weight after breaking his foot and became inactive. “My weakness was ice cream and comfort food. I was putting junk in my body,” he says.
A Growing Epidemic
Earle is far from alone. According to the CDC, 30.3million people have diabetes (9.4% of the U.S. population): 23.1 million are diagnosed and 7.2 million are undiagnosed. It is startling that 23.8% of people with diabetes are undiagnosed. An estimated 33.9% of U.S. adults aged 18 years and older (84.1 million people) had prediabetes in 2015.
Diabetes is a problem with your body that results in too much sugar in the blood, which can damage your body organs if not controlled. The most common type of diabetes is type 2, approximately 90-95% of people have this type. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body either does not use insulin as well as it used to or does not secrete enough. The leading cause of type 2 diabetes is being overweight, lack of exercise and family history as Earle discussed. About 5-10% of people have type 1 diabetes and is thought to be a result of an autoimmune process that destroys the cells which produce insulin, requiring a person to take insulin to live.
Symptoms of Diabetes (although they may be absent)
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive hunger
- Visual changes
“When a patient first comes into the hospital with a new diagnosis of diabetes, they’re overwhelmed. Our diabetes staff offers support and education for patients on how to manage their disease. Our goal is to motivate and empower patients to make necessary lifestyle changes to manage their diabetes at home, says McGraw.
Get Help Dealing with Diabetes
“Earle is really a success story,” McGraw says. “He was very motivated to make changes and get better and has been able to reduce his need for medication.” With guidance, Earle began making healthy changes as soon as he was transferred from the ICU to a medical unit. He earned the nickname “the jogger” from the staff. “After every meal in the hospital, I walked 10 laps around the entire floor,” he says.
After returning home, Earle continued the new eating habits he learned and began exercising regularly. He lost 35 pounds and came off his insulin. He credits McGraw, “The biggest thing they taught me was about food. I learned about carbohydrates and how various ones act with my blood sugar.”
“Diabetes is a self-managed disease, but you do not have to feel alone. We support and empower patients, provide education and assist them in setting goals so they can manage their diabetes,” McGraw says.
Know Your Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
You’re at risk for developing Prediabetes if you:
- Are overweight
- Are 45 years or older-but younger people can also develop
- Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
- Are physically active less than 3 times a week
- Have history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
- Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)
You can prevent or reverse prediabetes with simple, proven lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthier and getting regular physical activity.
For more information, please contact the UM SJMC Nutrition and Diabetes Center at 410-337-1382.