Other causes for concern
With the COVID-19 pandemic amongst us, everyone is trying to maintain excellent hygiene and avoid sick contacts, however, we still need to be mindful of treating the everyday illnesses that people suffer from. Being a medical student in this community, I wanted to talk about diabetes, but before doing so, I wanted to just give a quick reminder of how the CDC is recommending we prevent the progression of COVID-19. First and foremost, the single best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the virus, such as by keeping a distance of 6 feet in between people. Other rules to follow are to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, avoid touching your eyes, ears, and nose without having washed hands, and if you do not have soap to wash your hands, then use hand sanitizer that contains 60 percent alcohol. With that being said, we can now talk about diabetes mellitus in West Virginia, which ranks as the 2nd highest in the nation with the disease, according to the State Department of Health and Human Resources.
Diabetes mellitus actually has 5 different types, the most common being type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes mostly occurs in those over the age of 30, however, it is occurring more frequently in younger populations due to obesity. Type 2 diabetes commonly develops by consuming large amounts of sugar and carbohydrates to the point where the body eventually becomes desensitized. Overtime, the more sugar and carbohydrates we eat, the more our body releases insulin and eventually our body can become resistant to the insulin resulting in an excess of sugar coursing through our blood. As a result of this excess sugar in our blood, it can clog our arteries and damage our nerves, causing many problems. According to the American Diabetic Association, up to 97 percent of diabetic patients have an abnormally high level of cholesterol and fat, which can cause plaques to form along the walls of our arteries worsening the odds of having a heart attack or stroke to occur. Type 2 diabetes can also affect the eyes leading to blindness, affect the kidneys leading to kidney failure, and affect the nerves leading to nerve damage. This makes it important to get your annual diabetic eye exams, kidney function tests, and nerve sensations tests.
There are many ways to approach the treatment for type 2 diabetes, but a lot of the treatments depend on your hemoglobin A1C, which is a test used to determine how much sugar is attached to your red blood cells. With an A1C below 5.7 percent, that is considered normal. An A1C between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent is considered to be “pre-diabetic.” At this point, all of treatment is dedicated to preventing the A1C from increasing with changes to life style. Some examples of said life style changes would be dietary changes such as substituting carbs and sugars for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, cutting out sugary drinks, and exercising for 30 minutes a day. Many patients report great improvement with intermittent fasting. With an A1C above 7 percent, that is when medications are started and the higher the A1C, the higher the need for both medications and lifestyle modifications to control the diabetes. Although type 2 diabetes is an on-going disease, there have been many patients who have in a sense “reversed” the disease by maintaining normal blood sugar and A1C levels with good diet changes, exercise, and weight loss. So please, along with keeping good hygiene, remember to take care of your diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent disease spread and progression.