By Debbie Herbst, RD, LD, CDE
Mercy Hospital Carthage
Does it seem like everyone you know has diabetes or has a family member with diabetes? Is there an epidemic of diabetes? Are doctors just trying to scare us?
Why can’t you just take the diabetes medicine and eat what you want? Are there really different diets for diabetes? Why are there so many ways to treat diabetes?
It can be hard to know what to believe about diabetes. November is diabetes awareness month, so now’s a great time to get some facts straight:
Fact 1: Diabetes is at an all-time high. In 2013, the population with diabetes was 11 percent in Jasper County, 9 percent in Newton County and 14 percent in Barton County. Across the country, 9.4 percent have diabetes. Another 24 percent of the population has undiagnosed diabetes, meaning they don’t know they have it.
Fact 2: Diabetes is diagnosed by a fasting blood sugar of 126 or above. Pre-diabetes means a fasting blood sugar of 110 to 125. If you have blood work done, blood sugar is part of a basic panel.
Type 1 diabetes requires insulin daily. Type 2 diabetes can be treated by pills or shots. Another kind of diabetes is gestational, which means that a woman’s blood sugar gets too high during pregnancy. All diabetes should be treated with a meal and exercise plan.
Fact 3: Doctors are not trying to scare us. Diabetes can be treated successfully. If not, it can cause many serious health problems.
Poorly controlled blood sugars are the leading cause of kidney disease, blindness and amputations (losing toes, feet or legs). Poorly controlled blood sugars cause more than half of heart and blood vessel diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
Fact 4: Taking pills or shots of insulin or other kinds of shots for diabetes can help bring blood sugars into good range. However, they work more effectively when you make healthy eating changes, lose weight and increase physical activity to at least three times a week or the equivalent of 10,000 steps daily.
Fact 5: Diets can be so confusing. The good news is that the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have basic diet information that is well-researched.
The basic guidelines are about when, what and how much to eat. Eating within an hour of getting up and then a meal or snack every four to five hours helps the body regulate blood sugar. Eating at consistent times helps medicine and shots work more effectively.
Eat vegetables at least two times daily, fruit one to two times daily and protein, such as lean beef, pork, turkey, chicken or eggs, two to three times daily. It’s OK to eat breads, cereals and other “starches” so long as they are whole grains.
Dairy products such low-fat milk, yogurt and reduced-fat cheese are recommended two times daily. It’s OK to eat something sweet occasionally.
Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. Other drinks do not count as water. Try to avoid regular soda pop, sweetened tea and sweetened fruit drinks because they raise the blood sugar quickly and are high in empty calories.
What about how much? Serving sizes of meat or protein equals 3 to 4 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. Serving size of bread equals one slice and grains equal a half cup. Milk is 1 cup.
How many servings of each food group can I have? The best way to know is to see a registered dietitian or a diabetes educator. They will help you with a meal plan that fits your age, weight, schedule and food preferences.
Be wary of fad diets and products that have sensational claims. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fact 6: There are many ways to treat diabetes, including different kinds of pills, non-insulin shots and insulin. The doctor will look at a person’s age, weight, other health problems and type of diabetes to decide how to treat it.
Cost is another factor. Newer treatments usually are more expensive.
Diabetes can be scary, but look it in the eye. You can avoid or manage diabetes armed with the power of knowledge and a positive attitude.
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.