The numbers are alarming and are starting to scare people. The overall incidence of Type 2 diabetes in America has doubled in the last 30 years, and some estimates say that up to 50 percent of the population will be inflicted within the next several decades.
However, internal medicine doctor Anil Nair, M.D., does not want to see this projection come true. On June 16 at Manchester Memorial Hospital, Nair talked about Type 2 diabetes, highlighting the risk factors and ways to avoid getting diabetes.
During this summer lecture series event, he also went over screening recommendations, diagnosis, potential complications and the medical care needed to manage the disease.
“It is definitely a huge problem and a significant health concern,” Nair said. “It leads to many complications in different organs and about 14 percent of healthcare expenditures in the U.S. is related to diabetic complications.”
Nair said that some of the Type 2 diabetes risk factors include people over the age of 45, obesity, family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, smoking, and poor dietary patterns. Symptoms include increasing fatigue, excessive thirst and urination, unintentional weight loss, blurred vision and impotence.
Nair said in order to avoid diabetes, people at risk must begin making significant lifestyle changes. According to Nair, one crucial area is nutrition. He gave a handout to the lecture attendees about changes that people can make in their diet.
For instance, instead of eating white bread, people should be eating whole-grain wheat bread. Another dietary change is removing whole milk and drinking fat-free milk instead. He said to look for foods low in sugar, salt, saturated fat and cholesterol.
“Making initial dietary adjustments are huge,” Nair said. “It’s really important to watch portion sizes. People might not be happy with these new foods they are eating, but it is critical.”
He said that moderate weight loss of 5-10 percent of body weight is important for people at risk. A couple pounds here or there are not going to make a difference, Nair said – there has to be a significant drop in weight.
Other than nutrition changes, Nair said that exercising more can help with the moderate weight loss goal. He recommends some sort of brisk activity 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
“Go walk in the mall,” Nair said. “People say they can’t exercise in the winter, but they can go walk on a treadmill or walk through the mall.”
Saying goodbye to cigarettes is another way to help prevent Type 2 diabetes, according to Nair.
“I can’t stress this enough,” he said. “You have to quit smoking, whether you are at risk for diabetes or not.”
If people at risk of diabetes do not follow this advice, Nair said the chances of getting diabetes goes way up. Complications from diabetes include heart disease, end-stage kidney disease, blindness, neurological dysfunction potentially leading to foot ulcers, and increased risk of infection.
Dave Will, 71, of Manchester is not diabetic, and he would like to keep it that way. He came to Nair’s lecture to learn ways to prevent diabetes and avoid the complications that come with it.
“Since I retired, maintaining my health is my most important focus in life and everybody should make it their top priority,” Will said. “The more people know about this, the healthier they will be, and the happier they will be. Just remember, if you’re coasting, then you’re going downhill.”
Nair said there are many undiagnosed diabetics in America. Multiple tests are available today, and Nair stressed the importance of getting screened for diabetes.
“A suggested approach is to screen all individuals after the age of 45 and those younger individuals who are overweight and have at least one other risk factor,” he said. “A lot of people unfortunately fall into these categories.”
Manchester Memorial Hospital has held diabetic screenings in the past, with one just last week. To contact the diabetes department at the hospital, call 860-647-6824. For more information, log on to http://www.echn.org/Service-Directory/Metabolic---Diabetes-Institute-of-Eastern-Connecti/Diabetes-Center.aspx.
Another website with a wealth of diabetes information is www.learningaboutdiabetes.org.