FDI is dedicated to diabetes education, nutritional counseling, and wellness programming.See all posts »
Getting to Know Your ABCs
At the Friedman Diabetes Institute, I consult with many people who have diabetes. Some have had diabetes for 20, 30, or 40 years and some only a week. When I meet with a patient for the first time I always see if they know the complications of having diabetes. But usually, before I have a chance to ask this question my patients express their concern for going blind, having amputations, or going on dialysis. Many times diabetes runs in the family and somebody has seen their mother, father, grandparent, or sibling develop one of these complications. This is when I explain how complications can happen.
A diagnosis of diabetes does not mean that you’re automatically going to have chronic complications. Complications from diabetes happen when blood sugar is out of control for a long period of time. Testing blood sugar on a daily basis is a great way to see the day-to-day snapshot of how food, exercise, and medications, if prescribed, affect your sugar. But it’s also important to understand the larger picture. So let’s get to know the ABCs of diabetes!
A is for Hemoglobin A1c, or just A1c. This is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar over the past 2-3 months. This should be tested at least twice per year. The test is done to see how your diabetes regimen is working. Diet, exercise and medications can all help to get your A1c within target range. So ask your health care provider what your A1c is at each visit. A goal of less than 7 percent is ideal for most people with diabetes, which corresponds to an average blood sugar level of about 154 mg/dL.
B is for blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension happens when blood pushes too hard against your blood vessels. A healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80 for adults. Blood pressure should be checked at every visit. High blood pressure can be treated with the right treatment, such as lifestyle changes or medications prescribed by your doctor. If blood pressure is under good control then your chances of delaying or preventing a heart attack or stroke improves.
C is for cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in your bloodstream and cells. The body has both good cholesterol and bad cholesterol; both make up your total cholesterol. When you have high total cholesterol your LDL-cholesterol, which is your lousy cholesterol, is too high. Too much bad cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Making changes in diet and increasing exercise can lower high cholesterol; your doctor can determine if cholesterol-lowering medications are needed for optimal control.
Diabetes does increase the risk for many health problems. However, with proper treatment and lifestyle modifications many people are able to prevent or delay the onset of complications. Talk to your health care provider at each visit and get to know your ABCs!