Every year, 1.5 million Americans learn they have diabetes. It can be startling news.
“They each want to know how this diagnosis will change their life,” says Ronald J. Graf, M.D., an endocrinologist with MultiCare Endocrinology Specialists — Tacoma, and Medical Director of MultiCare’s Center for Diabetes Education.
That leads to questions — about diet, medications, the risk for complications, and more. These questions are often most fully addressed in diabetes education classes. But a few frequently asked questions are briefly answered here.
Information courtesy MultiCare.
Will I have to give up sweets?
A healthful diet is crucial. It’s low in saturated fats and trans fats. And it contains balanced portions of proteins and carbohydrates, including sugars.
“It’s the carbohydrates that have the major effect on one’s blood sugar level, but even simple sugars and sweets are allowed in limited amounts,” Dr. Graf says.
Why is exercise important?
Exercise can lower blood sugar levels and help with insulin resistance, which occurs with type 2 diabetes — the type often related to obesity. Insulin resistance means the body has a hard time using the insulin it makes.
“Exercise can overcome much of that insulin resistance, as well as burn some of the calories we consume in our diet and store in our fat,” Dr. Graf says.
That can lead to weight loss, which in turn may lead to less insulin resistance. It may also improve high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels, which often occur in people with diabetes.
Will I need to take medication?
People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin. People with type 2 diabetes often can control their disease with proper diet and exercise. With time, though, they may need one or more medications.
“Frequently, even those with type 2 diabetes will eventually require insulin treatment to help control elevated blood glucose levels,” Dr. Graf says.
Will I be able to avoid diabetes complications?
Most people who follow their health care team’s advice can have relatively healthy lives, says Dr. Graf:
“Living with diabetes usually means making some lifestyle changes and some sacrifices,” he says. “But these changes are usually for the better and can lead to a healthier and longer life.”
Look for diabetes support
At MultiCare’s Center for Diabetes Education, a team of registered nurses, registered dieticians, and pharmacists specializes in teaching people with diabetes how to effectively manage their disease. They offer classes and support for adults, including pregnant women. Ask your health care provider for resources that might be beneficial.
Ronald J. Graf, M.D., is board certified in endocrinology and metabolism. He is actively involved in clinical research, evaluating new investigational therapies for diabetes and other metabolic disorders. Dr. Graf practices at MultiCare Endocrinology Specialists-Tacoma. We’ve been caring for our community for well over a century, since the founding of Tacoma’s first hospital.
MultiCare Health System is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 18,000 employees, providers, and volunteers.