Despite all the media hype and medical attention diabetes commands these days, the condition is on the rise in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 million Americans, or about 10% of the population, have diabetes. Another 84 million have prediabetes, which puts you at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes within 2-3 years.
The very good news? Expert diabetes management can help prevent heart disease, vision loss, nerve damage, and numerous other health complications associated with the disease.
At Southern Nevada Bariatrics in Las Vegas, Nevada, board-certified surgeon and experienced internist Dr. Mustafa Ahmed is well-known for his expertise in helping his patients understand and manage diabetes. He’s happy to explain why it’s important to consider diabetes management a team effort.
Understanding the basics of diabetes
Diabetes is a complex condition that affects the way your body uses food for fuel. Blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels play a crucial role in this process.
Normally, your cells take in glucose to provide the energy they need to function. Glucose is present in your blood and comes from carbohydrates found in the foods and beverages you consume, which your body breaks down into glucose.
When blood sugar levels rise, your pancreas releases insulin. Acting like a key that opens a lock, insulin is a hormone that triggers cells to absorb the glucose they require and helps keep your blood sugar within normal range. Your liver stores any “leftover” glucose for later use between meals or when you’re active.
Causes and effects of diabetes
Understanding the cause of diabetes guides your treatment strategy. Type 1 diabetes, for instance, occurs when your immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells within the pancreas. Eventually, your pancreas stops producing insulin, and your cells cannot absorb the fuel they need to function and keep you healthy.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common type by far, is often linked to an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity. If you have Type 2 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to bring your blood sugar levels down or your cells have become resistant to insulin, or both.
Persistently high blood sugar levels can result in:
- Kidney damage
- Heart disease
- Vision loss
- Digestive problems
- Painful nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
- Loss of sensation in your hands or feet
Maintaining tight control of your blood sugar helps prevent the negative impact it can have on your overall health.
The goal of diabetes treatment is to maintain normal blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and medication. That sounds pretty simple, but getting a handle on your blood sugar levels can get confusing since the numbers change constantly according to when and what you last ate.
Adding to the frustration, you can’t simply cut carbohydrates out of your diet to eliminate worries over blood sugar, since your body needs a certain amount to produce fuel for your cells. The type of carbohydrates you consume, simple or complex, also matters.
There are many medications available for treating diabetes, but each has different effects. Some oral diabetes medications, for example, stimulate your pancreas to produce more insulin while others slow your liver’s release of stored glucose. Manufactured insulin replacement hormone may be short-acting, long-acting, or a combination of both.
As a diabetes management expert, Dr. Ahmed partners with you as he designs and explains your customized treatment strategy, which may include:
- Medications and/or insulin therapy
- Physical activity to reduce blood sugar levels
- A healthy diet that’s not overly restrictive or bland
- Weight loss, which often leads to improved blood sugar control
Because stress, illness, and aging can affect your blood sugar control, Dr. Ahmed also provides ongoing supervision and support to ensure you’re receiving preventive care, including diabetic eye exams, and follow-up labs to check on other aspects of your health, such as kidney function.
You can count on Dr. Ahmed and the care team at Southern Nevada Bariatrics to take the confusion out of managing your diabetes. Schedule a visit today. Call the office or request an appointment online.