Did you know that it is National Diabetes Month?
Diabetes is a condition where there is too much blood sugar in the bloodstream. It can leave you feeling very tired, thirsty, and needing to urinate a lot. Left untreated it can have long-term effects on the nervous system, the kidneys, vision, and the heart. For the more than 26 million of patients in the United States living with diabetes, this month is an important time to recognize all of the advances that have been made over the last decades from testing blood sugar to new ways to treat diabetes.
Patients with diabetes can live very healthy lives with attention to eating well, exercising, and taking their medicines as prescribed by their doctors. At The University of Vermont Medical Center, we have established a true partnership between our primary care doctors, our endocrinologists (the specialists for patients with diabetes), and our community health teams. We work together to improve the health of our patients with diabetes. Here’s how:
- Education. It is well known that if you meet with a diabetic educator early in the course of your diabetes that your ability to take control of the diabetes is greater. Each of our primary care/medical home practices has on-site access to a certified diabetes educator who can meet with patients one-on-one to teach them about diabetes and how to care for themselves. Learn more.
- Diet and Nutrition. Patients can also meet with a dietician and have access to personal fitness advice. All of this is a recipe for successful treatment of diabetes.
- Medication. For those who require medications, your primary care doctor can enlist the help of our endocrinology providers to offer advice on what medications are best for you.
This November, we celebrate the advances that science has made to diagnose and treat diabetes; however, we must also look toward the future. With an anticipated 1 in 3 Americans slated to have diabetes by the year 2020, we should think about what we can do to prevent diabetes.
The mainstay of control for most patients with diabetes is maintaining a healthy body weight by eating well and exercising. So, as we celebrate another round of holidays in the coming months, do your best to eat well, exercise and stay healthy! Here are some of my tips:
- Move your body! After the turkey, go for a walk instead of watching the football game. Or, better yet, get the whole family in on some physical activity before the big feast. Another idea is to start stepping up your fitness regimen now to keep yourself fit through the holidays.
- Keep your portions to a reasonable size. Thanksgiving Day servings are often bountiful. Enjoy your meal – and keep yourself in check by understanding portion sizes. The American Heart Association has great resources to help you out! ChooseMyPlate.gov is another great resource.
- Eat slowly to let the signal get to your brain from your stomach that tells you that you are full. Pacing yourself works: A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics found that healthy-weight adults ate 88 fewer calories and felt fuller an hour later when pacing themselves. One easy way to pace yourself is by setting down your fork in between bites.
All of these tricks can help keep your weight in control and your risk for diabetes low!
Jennifer Gilwee, MD, is an internal medicine physician at The University of Vermont Medical Center and an assistant professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.