Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Diabetes.... In a way everyone can understand

Since February has come to a quick end, I wanted to round out the Heart Health Awareness Month with more information on the arch-nemesis of heart disease: DIABETES.

Everyday we hear about "diabetes". Most of us think we know what it is and what it does to our body.... but I am never surprised by the number of patients and family members that really have no idea what diabetes is. I hear from many patients that diabetes means they need insulin. Well - maybe. But not necessarily.

There are TWO types of Diabetes:

Type 1: Insulin Dependent Diabetes (AKA: "Juvenile Diabetes") - a result from the body's failure to produce insulin - period. This is not a result of diet, lifestyle, etc. Your pancreas just isn't doing it's job for your body so your body is being FLOODED by glucose (sugar) from every source b/c insulin isn't present to remove it. These people must always use insulin - by an injection or via the insulin pump.

Type 2: Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes - Unlike Type 1's, this is a form of diabetes brought on by insulin RESISTANCE. These patients generally are prone to a state of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) b/c their body is less sensitive to the insulin it produces naturally, therefore added insulin is required to reduce their blood sugar levels.

So, why is it so important for us to monitor the amount of sugar in our blood? How does diabetes impact our hearts and cardiovascular system?

My Aunt, who was a crazy Cardiac Nurse for years has used these "word pictures" with me and her patients to simplify this disease and it's impact. I use it every time I talk about Diabetes and every patient (and even my 5 year old neighbor, Jordan) understands the impact of SUGAR on our bodies!!

From now on, think about SUGAR in our bodies as SHARDS OF GLASS.

Have you ever had  a small piece of glass in your finger? Stepped on some? Regardless, you know what glass does to our fingers and our toes..... well, it does the same thing to our vessels. When our body isn't able to control the amount of sugar moving about in our bloodstream (umm... insulin) the sugar builds up and starts cutting the lining of our vessels.

To repair these cuts, our body uses what it has available: Cholesterol. Typically in our vessels clotting (like we would do on the outside of our body) isn't normal, so cholesterol is the perfect "mud" to fill in the holes, cuts and scrapes found on the inside of our vessels to help smooth the vessel out for optimal blood flow.

This natural repair process is genius - on behalf of our Incredible Machine... but when we chronically maintain high blood sugar levels and do little to aid in the removal of plaque build-up, plaque just keeps piling up. Eventually leading to atherosclerosis (the build-up and hardening of the arteries).

Eventually, this build-up in combination with Diabetes causes other problems: narrowing of the arteries = hypertension, neuropathies in our hands and feet, decreased blood flow/circulation, vision changes and/or blindness, clots, etc.... This list could go on for a while, but these are just a few of the common problems.

And yes - Diabetes and take your toes, feet, fingers and hands by gangrenous ulcers! 
Gangrene Toes

Treating and PREVENTING Diabetes --- You know what I'm going to say... so just guess: ___________!!!!

Well, just in case, it starts with "E" and ends in "cise".  :)

Yes, exercise is crucial to treatment and prevention of DM as well as CVD, but I also have to put my plug in for the magic food: FIBER!!!!!!!!!!! If you know me well, you know I'm kind of obsessed with fiber. Not just because it helps you have excellent bowel movements, but it does for your cardiovascular system exactly what it does for your bowels! IT CLEANS IT OUT!! Yes, I said that.

Fiber cleans all the "icky" stuff out of our entire body... not just our bowels.

Now - on to exercise. Think of exercise as "pressure washing" the insides of our vessels. Any increase of blood flow we put on our vessels is literally like pressure washing them. The speed, like the fiber, helps to clear out the vessel of the plaque/cholesterol to prevent build-up and hardening of the arteries.

Do you get it now!?!?!?!?

- Give me some feedback! Leave your questions and thoughts here on my blog or facebook! I know I can't "cure" diabetes for anyone, but being educated is the first step in the battle of PREVENTION! I want you all to be informed too - if something doesn't make sense, let's talk about it.

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