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Diabetes: What doctors know -- and what patients know

October 23, 2009 |  6:01 pm

Diabetes Doctors and researchers know that poorly controlled diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney damage, nerve damage and limb amputations and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And they know how to monitor blood glucose, what patients should eat and which medications they should take.

The advice is not one-size-fits-all. There are tips specifically for ...

- teenagers, from the National Diabetes Education Program.

men, from the American Diabetes Assn.

women, from

- for older people, from the National Institute on Aging.

That's just for starters.  

The American Diabetes Assn. offers an excellent Ask the Expert section, with topic-specific advice from an optometrist, pharmacist, dietitian and dentist.

The site is truly a phenomenal resource. (There's even a risk test.) Even if you don't have diabetes, take some time to explore the information. There's something for almost everyone who wants to live a little more wisely -- and the information can shed light on the battles that millions of Americans face every day.

We too offer advice -- but mostly news and trends and profiles related primarily to Type 2 diabetes (because it's by far the most common), but also to Type 1 as well -- in this week's Health section devoted to diabetes.

But patients learn some lessons first-hand. And those are the lessons we want to know about... And that we want to share. Such as ...

How do you manage the intricacies of ordering off an unknown menu? ... Of feeling yourself become shaky in the middle of watching your kid's soccer game? ... Of transporting insulin on a three-week trip? ... Of reconciling your dietary restrictions with the food preferences of loved ones who have no such limitations? Of even trying to eat a simple meal when kidney failure is so close that almost all foods seem closed to you...?

If you have your own hard-won advice -- or aha! moment, we'd like to hear it.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: A simple blood test actually isn't. The results can trigger a host of actions and reactions and then compensatory actions, all part of the effort to control glucose.

Credit: Los Angeles Times

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Comments (4)

Diabetes, ... time to control food intake and the pattern of a better life

Many Diabetics test themselves regularly, unfortunately what are they going to do with that information? That seems to be a problem, they drop food, increase food and make their blood sugars even worse. Some don't even know why they do, or failing that they see that their blood sugars spike after meals...well that is normal.

Unfortunately Diabetes is progressive, it can get worse. Most Diabetics will get a complication of some sort, it is how severe that complication is is the main reason to control blood sugar levels.

We should first tell Diabetics that a normal lifestyle, one that we should all be following will help. Controlling BP and cholesterol factors that are usually missed. We should also advise them that diet, tablets and Insulin are all forms of is not better or worse than the other. And taking a tablet doesn't automatically make the Diabetes go away.

The key to controlling diabetes is knowing how it fits into the "real world," which is different for everyone. I plan ahead--there's no other way to do it. I take a juice box in my purse everywhere I go (plus one stashed in the car) for times when my blood sugar drops, like during shopping trips or at a game. One time my sugar became low on a walk, and the friends I was with had to go find a can of pop for me while I sat down to try and slow down the rate it was dropping. I learned my lesson that day to ALWAYS carry a carbohydrate source with me, like a small container of glucose tablets cause they fit easily in my pocket. Starbursts or Skittles work just as well.
A dietitian can help teach portion sizes using common objects so you can better estimate carbs in restaurants and outside of your home. By measuring foods at home, you can see how it spreads out on the plate, and then better estimate the carb count of the same food when you eat out.

Diabetes can definitely be a deadly disease. However, if you make an overall healthy lifestyle change, the complications can be prevented or delayed significantly. In order to make an overall healthy lifestyle change, you must address 4 main components: nutrition, exercise, stress management, and sleep. For more information, see my book, "How To Eat Fried Chicken and Be Thin Too" on Amazon or at


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