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For Your Health: Managing risks key to diabetes prevention

by Megan Horstman | November 22, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. While diabetes is a well-known and common disease, a lot of people are still unaware of what all diabetes prevention, diagnosis and management entails. If left uncontrolled, diabetes can have serious health implications. People with poorly controlled diabetes are at twice the risk for heart disease and stroke compared to those without diabetes. Poorly controlled diabetes can also lead to other serious conditions such as kidney disease, neuropathy, and complications of the feet, eyes and skin.

There are different types of diabetes that require different types of management. Type 2 diabetes is the most common and accounts for about 90-95 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is an impairment in the way the body regulates and uses glucose (sugar) as fuel for energy. When this happens, it leads to elevated glucose levels in the blood. Chronically high blood sugar levels are what cause the complications associated with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed through lifestyle modifications alone but other times may require oral medications or insulin to be controlled.

Type 1 diabetes is commonly referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes. This is because Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin, malfunctions and produces little to no insulin. Due to the inadequate amount of insulin being produced by the body, people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes require insulin treatment to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

Gestational diabetes is when a woman, who was not a previously known diabetic, is diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy. It is important for women to be screened for diabetes while pregnant because, if left uncontrolled, gestational diabetes can lead to serious complications. Babies born to women with poorly controlled diabetes are at greater risk of being delivered preterm, reaching an excessive birth weight (macrosomia), suffering from low blood sugar levels after delivery, are at greater risk for stillbirth, and have a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in their life. Prevention and treatment for gestational diabetes is similar to that of Type 2 diabetes.

Genetics have been shown to be a risk factor for diabetes, particularly Type 2. Fortunately, there are several modifiable risk factors that can significantly reduce the risk of or delay the development of diabetes. Some of the things you can do to prevent diabetes include reaching or maintaining an ideal weight, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and monitoring your Hemoglobin A1C levels. Hemoglobin A1C testing is a simple blood test that determines your average blood sugar levels over the past three months. This test serves as a screening tool for those without a diagnosis of diabetes, as well as a great tool for health care providers to use to manage existing cases of diabetes. Nutrition plays a huge role in the management of diabetes and is very individualized for each person. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor, along with registered dietitians, can give you guidance on what the best diet plan is for you.

Diabetes is a serious disease that requires continual management to reduce the risk of long-term health complications and even death. When it comes to diabetes, being proactive is important. If you have questions or would like to be screened for diabetes, contact your primary care physician to schedule an appointment.

Megan Horstman has been a registered nurse since 2014 and has been with the Cole County Health Department since July 2021. Horstman is the Maternal Child Health nurse and the Child Care Health Consultant nurse at the health department. Her focus is on educating the community about safe sleep practices for infants and serving as a health resource to the child care facilities of Cole County.

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