We got the historic news a little over a year ago — the FDA’s approval of an artificial pancreas for people with type 1 diabetes. These folks must needle-poke their fingers several times a day to determine if their blood sugar is too high or too low and then give themselves multiple daily shots of insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels.
This new technology combines an easier way to check bloods sugars throughout the day (continuous glucose monitor) with software that automatically delivers the right amount of insulin at the right time through an insulin pump.
In spite of our progress, however, we still have a lot to do… and learn. Here are some things to know:
Don’t miss the warning signs. An estimated 7 million people have diabetes and don’t know it… yet. Symptoms include frequent urination and thirst, extreme fatigue and hunger, blurry vision and cuts that are slow to heal. When detected early, we have a better chance to avoid the scary complications of this disease, says the American Diabetes Association.
Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented if it’s caught before it becomes full-blown diabetes. That’s what the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) is all about. Check out the Preventing Diabetes class offered through Montage Health at “http://www.chomp.org.”
Researchers from Britain recently studied the diets of more than 1,500 adults and performed blood tests that measure the body’s risk for inflammation. (Type 2 diabetes is an inflammatory condition.) They found a particular pattern of eating — high intake of vegetables and fruit with limited sugar, white bread and French fries — was associated with a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Are we surprised?
Know your carbs. Two words describe carbs in our food — sugar and starch. Natural sugars in fruit and milk are carbs. So are sugar-sweetened goodies and beverages. And while carbohydrates provide clean and efficient fuel to our brains and muscles, too many carbs at one time can put pressure on our insulin-producing cells. For example, one cup of cooked rice can affect blood sugars as much as three slices of bread. Watch those serving sizes.
Say YES! to non-starchy vegetables. From artichokes to zucchini, most vegetables are high in dietary fiber — carbohydrates that don’t spike blood sugars. And here’s a surprise: beets and carrots are considered non-starchy vegetables, too.
Diets that are good for the heart are good for diabetes. That’s because sugary-sweet blood is toxic to arteries and can damage the heart. Besides keeping carbs in check, a diet low in saturated fat helps avoid inflammation associated with diabetes as well as heart disease.
Beans are good for diabetes control. Although considered starchy vegetables, half the carbs in beans are in the form of dietary fiber that does not convert to blood sugar.
Get the right information. Not everything you hear about diabetes is true. Find evidence-based resources at these sites: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases (niddk.nih.gov), American Diabetes Association (diabetes.org), Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (jdrf.org).
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.