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February 26, 2013 > Managing Diabetes is Key to Avoiding Deadly Complications

Managing Diabetes is Key to Avoiding Deadly Complications

Washington Hospital Seminar Focuses on Prevention and Treatment

Diabetes is a life-altering chronic disease that must be properly managed to avoid serious and even deadly complications. Diabetes causes blood sugar (glucose) levels to rise, which can damage blood vessels and other organs in the body.

"Diabetes can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye problems," said Dr Archana Bindra, an endocrinologist and member of the Washington Hospital Medical Staff. "But the risk for these complications can be reduced with proper management."

She will offer tips for keeping diabetes under control at an upcoming seminar titled "Diabetes Update." scheduled for Thursday, March 7, from 7 to 8 p.m. The seminar is part of Washington Hospital's free monthly Diabetes Matters education series and will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), in Fremont.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is not able to use it properly. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. When this process doesn't work properly, glucose levels in the blood can get too high.

She will spend some time talking about a condition called prediabetes, when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. According to Dr. Bindra, recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during prediabetes.

"Not everyone with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes," she said. "Diet, exercise, and weight loss can help to prevent type 2 diabetes."

Higher Risk

Dr. Bindra will discuss some of the complications of diabetes. Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, narrowing of arteries, and high blood pressure. In fact, the death rate from heart disease is two to four times higher for people with diabetes than for people without the disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Neuropathy or nerve damage is another serious complication. Elevated glucose levels damage the walls of the tiny blood vessels that feed the nerves. This nerve damage can cause tingling and numbness in the fingers, toes, and legs.

Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of foot problems. Left untreated, cuts and blisters on the feet can become infected. Severe damage could require toe, foot, or leg amputation.

If the tiny blood vessels that make up the filtering system in the kidneys become too damaged, kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease can result, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. Diabetes can also damage the blood vessels in the retina, causing diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness, and increases the risk of other serious vision conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma.

Proper Management

Dr. Bindra will talk about some of the medications available today to treat diabetes. Those with type 1 diabetes must take insulin, but for those with type 2 diabetes, there are a number of medications available. For some people with type 2 diabetes, certain lifestyle changes can reduce the amount of medications needed to keep blood glucose under control and help to avoid complications, Dr. Bindra explained.

Diet is critical. People with diabetes should work with a dietitian to create a meal plan that is rich in nutrients and low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, she said.

Physical activity is also important. Dr. Bindra recommends exercising 30 to 60 minutes a day most days of the week. An exercise program can improve blood glucose, decrease the risk of heart disease, and help with weight loss.

She said even moderate weight loss can help to bring blood glucose levels down. It can also reduce the risks for cardiovascular disease.

"There are many serious risks associated with diabetes," Dr. Bindra added. "That's why it is so important for people with diabetes to take medications as directed, eat right, exercise, and learn everything you can about the disease and ways to stay healthy. If you have diabetes, you need to work closely with your health care team to stay on top of any problems that do arise."

To learn more about Diabetes Matters and other diabetes programs at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/diabetes.

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