At the Durbin Lions Club meeting last Tuesday, physician’s assistant Rachel Taylor and LPN Kelly Meck gave a presentation on the signs of diabetes and ways to treat or avoid the disease.
“Just a brief overview of what diabetes is – there’s more than two types of diabetes – but two main types that you may have heard about are Type 1 diabetes, which used to be typically known as juvenile diabetes – that would be when a child was born and they were doing fine and then all of a sudden, they would need to take insulin,” Taylor said. “Type 1 diabetes, you have a complete failure of your pancreas. It’s like their pancreas just stops and decides not to work anymore, so they are insulin dependent and have to take shots for the rest of their life.
“The second type of diabetes used to be known as adult onset, but we don’t use that word anymore because of the obesity epidemic, we’re seeing a lot earlier diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes in children,” she continued.
Taylor asked the club to help her list risk factors of Type 2 diabetes, which includes being overweight, inactivity and age.
“Does anyone here watch The Simpsons?” she asked. “Homer Simpson was the picture of diabetes, so not very active and overweight. Inactivity is a risk factor. The more you exercise, the less at risk you will be. Fat, right around the middle, like a ‘spare tire,’ that puts you at more risk. Age, the older that you get, especially after the age of forty-five, your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increases.”
Taylor added that race is also a factor and African Americans are more at risk than Caucasians.
Meck talked about some pre-diabetic symptoms.
“A lot of people come in and say, ‘I’m just really, really thirsty,’” she said. “Blurred vision. Some of the other ones are increased hunger and weight loss. Weight loss doesn’t have to necessarily have to be all of a sudden. It can be gradual, over time. Fatigue – just feeling like you don’t want to do anything – real sluggish, being a couch potato.”
To test for diabetes, Meck said a person would have blood drawn and the lab would test the blood for glucose levels and hemoglobin A1C.
“That A1C isn’t just a reading from right now,” she explained. “Your blood sugar might be ninety right now which is normal, but your A1C might be high and what that gives us is a three-month window of how your sugars have been running.”
“The A1C is a non-fasting test so you can have it done any time, even if you just ate, and it won’t make a difference because it’s that three-month average,” Taylor added.
With the A1C, it wouldn’t be affected if an individual drank a sugary drink right before the test, but if that individual drank multiple sugary drinks a day in the three months prior to the test, it would show up in the A1C results.
Meck said a fasting glucose is done prior to the A1C test and if the glucose level is high, then the A1C would follow.
For those who are in the pre-diabetic stage, Taylor and Meck said there are several changes an individual can make to avoid the onset of diabetes.
“Exercise, absolutely,” Taylor said. “Lose weight, change your diet around. That’s great.”
“One of the biggest things is our diet,” Meck said. “We tend to have carb heavy, sugar heavy diets and because of that, it does affect our chance or risk for diabetes.”
Taylor said it isn’t necessary and it would be very difficult to remove all sugar from your diet, but it important to make sure to have a healthy diet with a little sugar here and there. She added that carbohydrates are another item to add sparingly to your diet.
“A carbohydrate – when it’s broken down in your body – turns into sugar,” she said. “There might be things that have zero sugars, but are so close to sugar that your body thinks it is and it mimics it and it spikes your sugar anyway. It’s really tricky. Something that raises one person’s blood glucose may not raise another’s as much.”
Artificial sweeteners are also a no-no, because they are manufactured to resemble sugar so well that the body can’t tell the difference and treats it as real sugar.
Just like each person is different as to what spikes their sugar, the treatment for diabetes varies depending on the person and their sugar numbers.
“Your treatment for diabetes depends on your numbers and where they are – whether Rachel would put you on medicine or if it would just be a diet and exercise thing initially,” Meck said.
Taylor said there are multiple oral and injectable medications available for people with diabetes.
After their presentation, Taylor and Meck answered questions from the club members and guests at the dinner. As part of the program, the club dined on a diabetes-friendly meal which included baked chicken, cauliflower mash (prepared like mashed potatoes), carrots cooked in honey and Nutella and fresh fruit crepes.
Diabetes awareness is one of the five main causes Lions Club International focuses on in its service to the world.