It has been several months since I have written a column about diabetes, even though many readers have said that they especially read the columns about diabetes. Recently, I had a request to write another column on this subject.
It does not seem possible, but it has been a little over 12 years since I was diagnosed with diabetes. There is no cure for it; the challenge is to keep it under control and there are plenty of challenges. Life has not been the same since. I told you at the time that I would keep you informed about how this disease effects me and some of my thoughts about the disease.
As I have said before, I do not want you to feel sorry for me. It is something that I have to live with and it does have an effect on a person in many ways. I have been blessed as it has not affected me as it has others. Some diabetics are able to keep it completely under control. However, there are many people who do not keep it under control, either by not making an effort, or because it is an aggressive disease they are not able to keep it under control.
Many people have told me that they are diabetic and have talked to me about their situation and what they are doing. One of the things that are helpful is to give support to each other. If you are a diabetic, you are not by yourself.
Others have family members who have diabetes and they are interested in giving them support and encouragement to help keep it under control. For many with diabetes, they do not get the proper support from their family. It has to be a different lifestyle. Too often people do not understand that diabetics can eat almost anything, but it has to be limited. Eating one thing may mean not eating something else.
One of the challenges has been learning that what is sometimes called sugar free, may actually have as many calories and sometimes even more than the other foods. Sugar alcohol is not a sugar, yet it has calories and often causes gas.
I do not consider myself an expert on this subject and I do not want anyone to think that I am. It is a subject, like many others, that the more you learn, the more you realize that you do not know. I have had my experiences with diabetes, but it affects everyone differently.
Since I was diagnosed with diabetes, there has been new research, new information, new medications and other things to help keep the disease under control. The numbers with this disease just keeps growing. There are now 23.6 million people in the United States who have diabetes, or 7.5 percent of the population. Of this number there are 17.9 million diagnosed as having diabetes. Another 5.7 million have not been diagnosed. These people do not know that they have it. As result, they are not doing anything to keep it under control, which can lead to complications.
You may have noticed that many of the diabetics are 60 years of age or older. In this population there are 12.2 million with this disease, or 23.1 percent of this age group. While it affects people of all ages, including children, nearly half of the diabetics are in the older age group.
It is possible to have symptoms of diabetes and not realize that you have the disease. Some of the symptoms might include frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability and blurry vision. If you have one or more of these symptoms get to a doctor right away. The American Diabetes Association has an Online Diabetes Risk Test on their website, http://www.diabetes.org.
It is important to keep diabetes under control, because there are several complications that can develop -- including death. These complications includes heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness (diabetic retinopathy causes 12,000-24,000 new cases of blindness each year and is the leading cause of blindness for people between 20 to 73 years of age), kidney disease, nervous system disease (60-70 percent have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage, amputations and dental disease.
Most of the patients at the wound clinic have diabetes wounds that are difficult to heal. Some new information suggests that diabetics have a three times greater chance of developing tuberculosis than the general population.
The A1c is a test that gives your glucose average level for two or three months. It is a valuable test to show how a person is doing. It is good to know where you are. Many diabetics have expressed that they are not aware of their A1c.
Each one point drop of the A1c can reduce the risk of complications by 40 percent -- a good reason to lower the A1c level. The American Diabetes Association now recommends that the level should be 6.5 or lower -- it was at seven. Mine has been running about seven or 7.2. The doctors say that I am doing well. Perhaps I am, as I understand that many diabetics have a much higher number -- leading to complications. Still, I feel I need to get it down to 6.5, which is recommended. I need to be more discipline.
Diabetes Forecast, the magazine published by the ADA has launched a new Web site which contains information about diabetes, http://www.forecast.diabetes.org. Another good source for information is http:// www.webmd.com.