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March 26, 2013 > Learn the ABCs of Managing Your Diabetes

Learn the ABCs of Managing Your Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you know how important it is keeping it under control. The chronic disease causes blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise, which can damage blood vessels and other organs in the body causing serious health issues, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye disease.

'There are a number of factors that increase the risk for these
complications," said Dr. Prasad Katta, a local endocrinologist and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "People with diabetes have to keep these risk factors under control with a combination of medications, diet, and exercise."

He will discuss some of those risk factors when he presents "ABCs of Diabetes" on Thursday, April 4, from 7 to 8 p.m. The seminar is part of Washington Hospital's free monthly Diabetes Matters education series and will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), in Fremont.

"The ABCs include the A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol," Dr. Katta explained. "I also like to talk about D and E - diet and exercise."

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is not able to use it properly. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. When this process doesn't work properly, glucose levels in the blood can get too high.

The A1C is a test that measures the average amount of glucose in the blood over a three month period. According to Katta, it is the best way to determine how well diabetes is being controlled over time.

"People with diabetes need to check their blood sugar every day," Dr. Katta explained. "That helps you to know how your blood sugar is reacting to what you are doing. The A1C is important for knowing whether your diabetes is under control."

Risk Factors

Blood pressure and cholesterol are critical because when their levels get too high, they dramatically increase the risk for coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, and narrowing of arteries. In fact, the death rate from heart disease is two to four times higher for people with diabetes than for people without the disease, according to the American Heart Association.

"We treat patients with diabetes who have these risk factors as aggressively as we would treat patients who have had a heart attack," Dr. Katta said. "We want blood pressure to be less than 130 over 80. Bad cholesterol should be less than 70. Good cholesterol should be over 40 for women and over 50 for men."

He will talk about some of the medications that are available to control these risk factors as well as some of the new medications on the market to treat diabetes.

"Most patients need more than one medication to control blood pressure," Dr. Katta explained. "The most important medications for lowering cholesterol are called statins. They inhibit an enzyme that is involved in the production of cholesterol."

Dr. Katta said there are newer diabetes medications that act on the pancreas to produce more insulin or make insulin work betters. Others reduce the amount of glucose released from the liver.

"Many of these medications work in combination with others," he added. "You need to work with your physician to determine the right treatment plan for you."
Diet and Exercise

While medications are critical for keeping diabetes and the associated risk factors under control, diet and exercise are also part of the equation. What you eat affects blood glucose levels as well as blood pressure and cholesterol.

"It's best to eat three meals a day with snacks well spread out," Dr. Katta said. "Portion control is very important. People with diabetes shouldn't overeat at one meal."

People with diabetes need to stick to a heart healthy eating plan that is rich in nutrients and low in carbohydrates, sodium, and saturated fat with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, he added.

"I recommend that people with diabetes work with a certified diabetes educator and a dietitian to develop a meal plan and learn how to manage the disease, particularly those who are newly diagnosed," Dr. Katta said. "It has been shown that when patients get this kind of support in the initial part of the disease, it can help with long-term success."

Exercise is also important. It can help with weight management and lead to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Dr. Katta recommends 30 to 45 minutes every day of the week.

"Diabetes is a significant health issue in this country," Dr. Katta added. "More than 26 million people have the disease and with the rising obesity rates, it will continue to increase. We need to help people better manage the disease so they can avoid the serious complications of diabetes."

To learn more about Diabetes Matters and other diabetes programs at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/diabetes.

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