Be Aware and Beware Diabetes

October 31, 2016

By Debbie Herbst, RD, LD, CDE
Mercy Hospital Carthage

Be aware and beware diabetes

November is diabetes awareness month, but what is the big deal? We hear about diabetes all the time.

The big deal is that 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, including 10 percent in Jasper County. Every five minutes, two people die of diabetes-related causes and 14 adults are diagnosed. Risk of death for adults with diabetes is 50 percent higher than for adults without diabetes.

Unfortunately, 1 in 4 people don’t know they have the disease. One out of 3 Americans has prediabetes, which is when your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to have diabetes.

It’s also a big deal because diabetes can be costly and can lead to a variety of ailments:

• Money. People with diabetes have more health problems, spend more on medications, are hospitalized more often and lose more days at work than people without diabetes. Medical costs are twice as high for those with diabetes, to the tune of $245 billion per year for the U.S.
• Blindness. People who have diabetes are at higher risk for losing their eyesight if they do not control their blood sugar.
• Kidney failure. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, which can mean dialysis. Dialysis is when a person is hooked up to a machine that does the work of filtering and cleaning the blood.
• Heart disease and stroke. Diabetes affects tiny blood vessels throughout the body. The blood may be “stickier,” which can cause clogging of blood vessels that carry blood to the heart and brain. Diabetes is the cause of more than 70 percent of heart attacks and strokes.
• Loss of toes, feet or legs. High blood sugars over time can result in less blood flow. Less blood flow means it is harder to heal cuts or sores. Less blood flow can cause toes and feet to stop functioning. Some people will end up losing toes or feet if they do not control their blood sugars and get medical care regularly.

Find out if you have prediabetes or diabetes by seeing your doctor and having your blood sugar tested. Take it seriously. See your doctor regularly.

Take steps to help prevent diabetes or, if you have diabetes, take care of it. These steps apply to the more-common type 2 diabetes (the body doesn’t use insulin properly), prediabetes or gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.

Diabetes, other than type 1, often can be prevented or controlled by losing weight, maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise. Treatment may include monitoring, pills, injected drugs and insulin.

Eat and drink healthy. This includes reducing or eliminating soda pop, juice and sweet tea, drink 48 to 64 ounces of water per day, eating fruits and vegetables daily, cutting back on desserts and sweets to once a week, reducing high-fat foods and snacks. Also exercise 40 to 45 minutes four to five days a week or take 10,000 steps per day.

Type 1 diabetes (the body doesn’t make insulin) is not prevented by most lifestyle changes. The foundation of treatment is meal planning, exercise and insulin.

Be aware that the energy you invest in a healthy lifestyle can reap great rewards in feeling well, spending less on health care and having fewer health problems.

Mercy clinical nutrition dietitians at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus, 3125 Dr. Russell Smith Way, can be reached at 417-359-1359.

For more information and to take the prediabetes risk test, visit Other resources include, and

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