What is diabetes?

stopdiabetesDiabetes is the leading cause of death in the United States among adults.

According to the American Diabetes Association, more people die of diabetes in the United States each year than from AIDS and breast cancer. In 2011, 18.8 million people were diagnosed with diabetes, 26 percent were under the age of 20 and 11.3 percent were 20 years of age or older. One in three people over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas, and it helps the body absorb glucose, or blood sugar. The glucose travels through blood to be absorbed into the cells, and insulin facilitates the transport of glucose into those cells. Glucose provides energy to the body so it can function properly.

In Type 1 diabetes the body does not make insulin. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and lasts for the person’s entire life. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in adults. In Type 2 diabetes the body does not make enough insulin, or the body cannot utilize the insulin it makes, which causes a buildup of glucose in the blood. This is called insulin resistance.

Nurse Practitioner Betty Bang of the UAA Health and Counseling Center says, “Anywhere there is small vessels — that can be your eyes, that can be your feet, that can be your organs — you end up having damage to those places. And that’s when you start having plaque buildup on those vessels and you end up having less response.”

High blood glucose levels can lead to many complications including heart attacks, strokes, loss of lower limb circulation and kidney disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults.

Psychology student Ashleigh Gaines was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when she was 14. Gaines said she was mad when she was diagnosed. She was an active child and ate well because her father was diabetic and she was at an increased risk of being diagnosed. Gaines said she didn’t have any symptoms and was diagnosed by her doctor.

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According to Bang, most people don’t have any symptoms, but indicators of diabetes can include “excessive thirst and hunger, being tired for no reason, going to the bathroom more than usual, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, cuts that are slow to heal and tingling in your hands and feet. Women may also see an increase in vaginal yeast infections.”

There are several ways diabetes can be diagnosed. The A1C test is a blood test that averages out the body’s blood glucose levels over a span of several months. The Fasting Plasma Glucose test checks fasting blood sugar levels. The Oral Glucose Tolerance test is a two-hour test that measures blood sugar levels two hours before and two hours after drinking a sweet beverage.

UAA students can get tested for diabetes in the Student Health and Counseling Center. Bang says the test starts with a free physical. Then a fasting lipid panel and blood glucose tests follow.

Bang says if a test comes back positive for diabetes, it’s important to adjust one’s lifestyle by changing eating habits and exercising.

“One of the real big ones is stop drinking sodas,” she says. “Sodas are a big problem.”

According to the State of Alaska Department of Public Health, sugary drinks are a big problem in Alaska. About 31 percent of three-year-olds, 45 percent of high school students and 40 percent of adults drink one or more sugary drinks per day in Alaska. Twenty-three percent of adult Alaskans consume two or more.

Gaines says she has changed the way she eats since she was diagnosed. Gaines no longer eats candy and tries to stay away from junk food and coffee. Gaines says she wishes UAA would offer more low-carb choices on campus for people who are diabetic.

There are groups of people who are more at risk for developing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Bang says African-Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Asians and those who are Hispanic are at a greater risk of developing the disease.

Genetics also play a role in a diabetes diagnosis. Both parents have to carry the gene to produce a child with Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes has an even stronger link to family history, though there are environmental factors for both types. Alaska has a high rate of diabetes. In 2009, 6 percent of Alaskan adults were newly diagnosed. Nationwide, 27 percent of adults who are 65 and older are diabetic.

Reduce the risk of diabetes

Eat healthy
Whole Fruits: 1-2 cups a day
Vegetables: 2.5-3 cups a day
Eat whole grain food
Drink water
Eat every 4-5 hours 

Monitor portion sizes
1/2 cup is an ice cream scoop
1.5 oz is the size of four dice
3 oz of meat or fish is the size of a deck of cards
2 tablespoons is the size of a ping pong ball

Candy, cookies, cakes, pie, ice cream
Chips, fries and other salty foods
Soda or sweetened juices
Second helpings

Adjust behaviors
Quit smoking
Manage stress
Maintain a healthy weight
Treat high cholesterol
Treat high blood pressure
(Source: The American Diabetes Association)


What is a sugary drink?

Sugary drinks are made with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey or other sweeteners that contain calories and include: soft drinks, soda, pop, fruit drinks, punches, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened milk, milk alternatives, and tea and coffee drinks with added sugar.

Sugary drinks are a problem. High consumption of sugary drinks is associated with obesity and negative health conditions including diabetes and cavities. Reduction of sugary drink intake can lead to weight loss.

Sugary drinks:
Provide 36 percent of added sugar in the American diet
Are the largest source of added sugar in the diet of U.S. youth
Provide “empty calories” with little or not nutritional value, and
Are a substantial contributor of calories in the U.S. diet.
(Source: State of Alaska Division of Public Health)

Diabetic recipe

Mediterranean Chicken Thighs:
1/2 of a medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
1/4 cup pitted ripe olives halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds chicken thighs, skinned
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning or Italian seasoning, crushed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup coarsely chopped roma tomatoes (2)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker combine eggplant, onion, olives and garlic. Top with chicken. Sprinkle chicken with lemon peel, Greek seasoning, salt and pepper. Pour broth over all.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5-6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2.5-3 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and eggplant mixture to a serving platter. Discard cooking liquid. Sprinkle chicken with tomatoes and cheese.

Nutrition facts per serving:
179 cal, 6 g total fat (1 g sat fat), 107 mg cholesterol
234 mg sodium, 5 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 26 g proteon
Daily Values: 7% vit A, 10% vit C, 3% calcium, 9% iron
(Source: Diabetic Living: Slow Cooker Recipe)