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Calculating diabetes risk and the dangers of sugary junk food

Diabetes Prevention, Diagnosis & Management

By Kristy Warren

More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or elevated blood sugar at risk of developing into diabetes (known as pre-diabetes). March 22, 2022 is Diabetes Alert Day, which aims to bring awareness to and promote understanding of this chronic condition.

 

Because early symptoms may not be as noticeable, many people don't even realize they're at risk. Laurel Health Center physician Mark Molckovsky, MD shares tips below on recognizing, preventing, and managing diabetes. 

 

WHAT EXACTLY IS DIABETES? 

Dr. Mark Molckovsky, MD, Laurel Health Physician, Discussing Diabetes

"Glucose is the primary sugar that our body uses for energy, and diabetes is a metabolic disease that inhibits our body’s ability to properly store glucose in the blood," explains Dr. Molckovsky.

 

"Diabetes creates elevated blood sugar levels and can lead to many other health problems with our heart, kidneys, vision, and circulation."

 

"Pre-diabetes refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet diabetic, putting someone at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems."

 

More than 80% of those with pre-diabetes do not realize they have it. 

In addition to putting you at greater risk of developing diabetes, high blood sugar is also a risk factor for developing heart disease and stroke. 

 

UNDERSTANDING GLUCOSE

 

Glucose is the primary sugar that our body uses for energy. When we eat or drink, most of the sugars we consume get broken down into glucose by our bodies and then sent into our bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin, a hormone that helps move glucose from our blood into our cells to be used/stored for energy.

 

If you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to move or store glucose well. In our modern diet, glucose is everywhere! Starch (a carbohydrate found in bread) and lactose (a carbohydrate found in milk) are both broken down into glucose inside your body. The sucrose, fructose, and corn syrup commonly used in processed foods are also broken down into—you guessed it—glucose. 

 

In times of stress, we often turn to “comfort foods” or increase our snacking. This can spell extra trouble when our favorite treats include a lot of sugar, especially for those of us whose bodies don’t store glucose well. All that extra glucose in our blood must either be used by our organs or packed away into fat or muscle tissue as storage.

Since so many foods and drinks have carbohydrates that break down into glucose, how we store extra glucose is very important. A 200lb person without diabetes stores approximately 6 grams of glucose in their blood at any given time.


For perspective, one can of Coke has 39 grams of carbohydrates, which includes glucose, sucrose, fructose, and corn syrup. 

Added sugar on a spoon, stacked sugar cubes, diabetes

TYPES OF DIABETES:

There are three main types of diabetes. While all types of diabetes mean there is too much glucose in the blood, they have different causes and modes of treatment.

 

  • Type 1 diabetes is when the body stops producing insulin entirely; you may have heard it called “juvenile onset” or “insulin-dependent” diabetes because it is typically diagnosed in someone’s youth and requires daily insulin injections or an insulin pump


  • Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t use insulin properly and/or no longer produces enough insulin; it is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for over 90% of cases and can develop at any age


  • Gestational diabetes affects a mother’s ability to create/use insulin during pregnancy; it occurs in approx. 10% of pregnancies

 

WHY IS DIABETES DANGEROUS?

Having too much glucose in the blood clogs up our small blood vessels. Some of the smallest blood vessels in our bodies are the nerves in our fingertips and toes, the filtering system in our kidneys, and the retinas in our eyes. This is why diabetes can negatively affect our circulation, limbs, and vision—in severe cases, uncontrolled diabetes can even lead to amputated limbs and blindness. Elevated sugar levels also affect our ability to heal. As a result, people with diabetes often take longer to heal from cuts, scratches, incisions, and other wounds.

 

SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES:


Common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination

  • Fatigue

  • Persistent hunger or thirst

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Slow-healing cuts

  • Pain or numbness in the legs and feet

People with severe, uncontrolled diabetes often suffer from an unquenchable thirst. Too much sugar in the blood can mimic dehydration, so our body promotes feeling extremely thirsty to try to rehydrate. Erectile dysfunction is another common but little talked about consequence of poorly controlled diabetes; the small blood vessels to the sexual organs are impacted by elevated glucose and become clogged, not allowing blood to flow to the area and causing sexual dysfunction.

 

WHO SHOULD BE TESTED FOR DIABETES?
 
Anyone experiencing diabetes-related symptoms should talk to their healthcare provider right away. Those who are overweight and over the age of 40 are encouraged to have blood-sugar specific checks once each year, either through a finger-prick test or traditional blood test (i.e., blood taken from a vein). These tests help medical providers gauge your average blood sugar level.

 

TREATING DIABETES

If you are at risk for developing diabetes or are diagnosed with untreated diabetes, there are simple steps you can take to improve your health. 

Woman drinking a glass of water

What we eat and drink really matters!

 

Avoid soft drinks like soda, juice, or milk and focus on drinking enough water.

 

How much water we need varies from person to person, but a good starting goal for most adults is 70 ounces of water per day.

Your doctor may also talk to you about how to safely increase your exercise levels to help your body utilize extra sugar. If your diabetes is highly uncontrolled, you may also be prescribed medicine to help lower your blood sugar levels.

If you are currently experiencing diabetic symptoms, have uncontrolled diabetes, would like to be tested, or want to discuss available medications, make an appointment with the Laurel Health Centers today at 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) or click here to visit our contact page.

 

Dr. Mark Molckovsky is passionate about preventing, diagnosing, and managing diabetes. He is currently accepting patients at the Lawrenceville Laurel Health Center. To make an appointment with Dr. Molckovsky, please call 570-827-0125.

 

All Laurel Health locations offer both in-person and telemedicine appointments to ensure you can be seen quickly and safely. Laurel also offers a sliding fee program for income-eligible patients to ensure all patients have access to high-quality care regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status.

 

Stayed tuned to our news page for more health and wellness tips. 

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