Do you have diabetes? Learn more about the disease

Holy Name’s specialized health care team provides education and emotional support to diabetes and pre-diabetes patients.

It’s one of those diseases that can sneak up on you, not causing any symptoms until all of a sudden you have a sore that won’t heal or you find yourself more fatigued than normal. Diabetes already affects millions of Americans and the number of cases is rising rapidly. But there is help in controlling the condition.

Most people know that diabetes develops when the body doesn’t process sugar in the blood (glucose) properly and too much of it remains in the bloodstream. Over time, this excess sugar can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.

“A diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming,” said Hilda Hernandez Sepulveda, coordinator of the Diabetes Center at Holy Name Medical Center. “The disease can lead to debilitating complications but with lifestyle adjustments and medications, it can be managed.”

Hilda Hernandez Sepulveda, coordinator of the Diabetes Center at Holy Name Medical Center. (Holy Name Medical Center)

Types of diabetes

There are three types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 can develop at any age, but typically occurs in children and adolescents. People with this type produce little or no insulin and need daily insulin injections.
  • Type 2 is more common in adults and accounts for about 90% of all cases. The body doesn’t use insulin well and medication is usually needed over time.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women and can cause complications to the mother and child. It usually disappears after pregnancy but women with this condition and their children are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 later in life.

Pre-diabetes indicates blood sugar levels are higher than normal but haven’t reached a point where medication is needed. Lifestyle changes, including eating a more nutritional diet and increasing exercise, can usually prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

How to manage diabetes

“One of the best ways to get a handle on diabetes is to see a diabetes educator, who can spend time talking about all aspects of the condition, answering questions and offering tips on nutrition, exercise and lifestyle adjustments,” Hernandez Sepulveda said. “Physicians often don’t have the time to walk patients through the process after a diagnosis. We work with the patient’s doctor and help patients understand the nature of the disease and its complications.”

Holy Name’s Diabetes Center is staffed with diabetes educators, nurses who specialize in the condition, and dieticians. The specialized healthcare team provides education and emotional support to empower those with diabetes and pre-diabetes with the knowledge they need to manage their condition.

People can find out whether they have diabetes or pre-diabetes by a simple blood test called an A1C test, easily done at Holy Name with a physician’s prescription. Readings in the range of 5.7 to 6.4 are considered prediabetic and those above 6.5 are considered diabetic.

Symptoms of diabetes may not appear early in the disease. See a healthcare provider if you have: increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, slow-healing sores and frequent gum, skin or vaginal infections.

Oksana Yakoff, a diabetes educator, working with a patient at the Diabetes Center at Holy Name Medical Center. (Holy Name Medical Center)

Diabetes on the rise

More than 10% of Americans — 34.2 million — have diabetes. Each year, another 1.5 million people are diagnosed. Just as troubling, 88 million adults — more than a third of the U.S. population — have pre-diabetes. Because it can take years before symptoms develop, many people are unaware they have the disease.

The exact cause of diabetes is unknown, but a number of factors seem to increase the risk of developing it. They include:

  • Being overweight — the more fatty tissue in the body, the more resistant cells become to insulin;
  • Inactivity — physical activity helps control weight, uses up glucose and makes cells more sensitive to insulin;
  • Family history — people with a parent or sibling with Type 2 have a higher risk;
  • Race or ethnicity — Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian American people are at higher risk;
  • Age — risk for Type 2 increases with age;
  • High blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides increase the risk.

“People don’t realize how dangerous diabetes can be,” Hernandez Sepulveda said. “It can affect most every part of the body, from the eyes to the feet. But Holy Name’s Diabetes Center can help. We offer expert counseling, medical care and prevention strategies. We help devise exercise plans that fit patients’ lifestyles. Diabetes is manageable.”

For more information about diabetes and how to effectively manage the disease, visit Holy Name Medical Center.