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March 28, 2006 > Living and Dealing with Diabetes

Living and Dealing with Diabetes

Health & Wellness Class Addresses Diabetes Management

You've heard that prevention is the best medicine. That saying rings doubly true for diabetes. On Tuesday, April 4, Dr. Prasad Katta, a Washington Hospital Medical Staff endocrinologist, will present a seminar about living and dealing with diabetes, but he says that being proactive with your health is one of the most important steps, especially if you're pre-diabetic.

"The problem with diabetes is that it's a progressive disease. If you're in the early stages, you can fight it, but unfortunately very few people address problems in the early stages," Katta says.

Dr. Katta's talk, which will cover diabetes Types I and II, will include an overview of the condition, as well as what patients need to do to control their condition, the role of medication in controlling diabetes, the importance of checking blood sugar levels, as well as some of the complications that can result from untreated diabetes.

Many of Dr. Katta's patients, especially younger ones, ask him if it's possible to reverse the condition without medication. "It is possible to some extent to get blood sugars down if patients lose weight. In some cases, they may not need to take medications," Dr. Katta says.

While the good news is that diabetes can be controlled, Dr. Katta stresses that management of the condition takes vigilance. The first step, once a patient has been diagnosed with the disease, is acceptance, which he says can be difficult for many patients.

"When patients are diagnosed with diabetes, they tend to think about insulin or they'll think about one of their relatives who went blind or their uncle who lost a leg as a result of untreated diabetes," Katta says. "Insulin is a fear factor for patients. Patients need to know that diabetes is a progressive disease. The truth is that if you don't control your diabetes, you will need insulin. If patients control the disease, the chances of going on insulin might be less. If they know about the disease, in the long run it will help them."

According to Dr. Katta, realistically only 30 to 35 percent of patients truly have control over their diabetes. He says it is essential for people with diabetes to closely monitor and record their dietary habits, exercise and check blood sugar levels every day so they can give this information to their physician. He likens going to your doctor without this information to going to a bank and asking to withdraw money without identification.

"I'll be able to work with you and give you better results if I have more information," he says. "I need to know what a patient's blood sugars are for the past few days or weeks when he or she comes in for an appointment. I also need to know their habits, including diet and exercise."

Physicians administer important blood tests that monitor the progress of diabetes in individual patients. One of the most important tests, called the Hemoglobin A1c test, is used primarily to monitor the glucose control of patients with diabetes over time. The goal of those with diabetes is to keep their blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible, which helps to minimize the complications caused by chronically elevated glucose levels, such as progressive damage to body organs like the kidneys, eyes, cardiovascular system, and nerves. The A1c test gives a picture of the average amount of glucose in the blood over the last few months. It can help a patient and his or her doctor know if the measures they are taking to control the diabetes are successful or need to be adjusted.

Dr. Katta says it's important to look at the patient as a whole, including the risk for other health conditions, which diabetes can trigger or exacerbate.

"When talking about diabetes, we take into consideration the whole patient," Dr. Katta says. "Here are the ABCs of diabetes: A) Hemoglobin A1C, B) blood pressure, C) cholesterol. These three factors are very important in controlling your diabetes."

The Living and Dealing with Diabetes class will be held on Tuesday, April 4, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. To register, call Health Connection at (800) 963-7070.

For more information about upcoming classes at Washington Hospital, call Health Connection or visit, click on "For Our Community," and select "Health Classes & Support Groups" from the drop-down menu.

Diabetes Self-Management Class Promotes Empowerment

Improve your knowledge about diabetes management and you will improve your quality of life as a person living with diabetes.

To learn more about Diabetes Education: A Course in Self-Management, a six-week series at Washington Hospital focusing on achieving better control of diabetes, call (510) 791-3470. The program will be held on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. starting on May 11 in the Washington West Auditoriums at 2500 Mowry Avenue. Seating is limited so registration is necessary for this fee-based program.

Diet Plays a Pivotal Role in Diabetes Management

Learn about Healthy Eating Tips

For people with diabetes, several different factors play an important role in controlling their condition. One of the most important is diet and good nutrition.

"Food, eating in general, is important to people," says Washington Hospital staff dietitian and certified diabetes educator Lorie Roffelsen. "Eating is something we have to do everyday. And it's something people with diabetes have to learn how to do so that it doesn't negatively impact their health. What we eat has a direct effect on how high our blood sugars go," which plays a large role in diabetes.

Roffelsen, who helps newly diagnosed patients in the hospital learn the basics of meal planning, including an overview of foods and how foods are categorized, points out that by paying attention to what they eat, patients can directly impact their diabetes management.

Control is within your grasp

Regularity is key to management. If you have diabetes, habits such as eating regularly (at least three meals a day), not skipping meals, consistency day-to-day with portion size of foods (especially carbohydrates), and regular exercise can play a huge role in managing your condition, Roffelsen says.

"Diabetes is really in the patient's hands. Some people see their doctor once a year or perhaps every few months, depending on individual health needs. In between visits, it's really up to the patient what they do in the day-to-day. The physician isn't there at home with them; the dietitian isn't at home with them. The more they know the more control of their condition they have."

That doesn't mean that patients are alone. Roffelsen will co-present a seminar about living and dealing with diabetes at Washington Hospital on Tuesday, April 4, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Roffelsen's talk will focus on healthy eating tips for diabetics.

"I encourage patients to be receptive to learning more, reading, and getting more information about their condition," Roffelsen says. "I also encourage them to self-monitor their own blood sugars at home to learn how different foods, or combinations of foods, affect their diabetes."

A great place to find more information about diabetes is right down the hall from Tuesday's seminar in Washington Hospital's Community Health Resource Library. Ask a friendly Washington Hospital volunteer or the librarian how you can get your free library card.

Heart healthy eating

Because diabetes is a risk factor in heart disease, Roffelsen's presentation will also focus on fat intake, in addition to the role of carbohydrates in diabetes.

"I emphasize that diet and lifestyle choices can impact patients' health in a positive way," she says. "During the class, we will also tie in the importance of eating heart healthy. It's not just about carbohydrates, but also about fats because if you don't control the diabetes, your chances of heart disease are higher."

To register for the Living and Dealing with Diabetes Health & Wellness seminar, call (800) 963-7070.

(See Don't Let Diabetes Take Control for information about Dr. Prasad Katta's presentation at the April 4 class.)

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