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Neva’s Back – A Mini Lesson in Diabetes

March 1, 2011

During this last weekend of February Neva White, MSN, CRNP, CDE was back at KIPP Charter School in North Philadelphia to talk to parents about diabetes.  Although I work and go to school in a world of public health, I haven’t had much experience with diabetes.   This mini lesson gave me a few ideas of what diabetes really is, and what the complications of diabetes are capable of.

The first thing I learned, finally, is what insulin is and what it does.  Insulin is a hormone that is made by the beta cells in the pancreas.  When you eat, some of your food is broken down in the sugar, aka glucose, in the pancreas.  Then this sugar travels through your blood into the body’s cells.  Insulin, as Neva noted, is the key that unlocks the cell for the sugar – it helps move the sugar from your blood into the cells.  Everyone needs sugar for energy, but when the body can’t produce insulin or can’t produce enough insulin, that’s when where diabetes comes in.

Type I diabetes occurs when the body can’t make insulin, so sugar accumulates in the bloodstream.  This sugar hanging out in the bloodstream irritates the lining of the blood vessels and attracts LDL cholesterol.  This LDL cholesterol, aka, the bad cholesterol, accumulates and leads to some complications not to be taken lightly.

Type II diabetes is an insulin resistance.  Here, the body makes some insulin, but not enough for the body to function properly.

So what exactly happens when diabetes isn’t managed long term?  Due to excess glucose, the circulatory issues occur, which lead to cell death.  True, humans are made of up of an unimaginable number of cells that are constantly regenerating, so who cares if we loose a few?  Well, diabetes can cause enough cell death that it can lead to heart attack, stroke, eye disease, kidney disease, nerve disease, infections and other issues.

With 79 million Americans having pre-diabetes, and nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes, take time to consider the signs and symptoms and maybe even testing.  The CDC recently released updated information on diabetes, check it out here.

The signs and symptoms of diabetes include being tired frequently, being consistently thirsty, sudden weight loss, blurry vision, consistent hunger, vaginal infections, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, having wounds that don’t heal quickly, and urinating often.  If you think you are at risk for diabetes, talk with a health care professional.  The A1C test can determine if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic.  The A1C test measures the blood glucose.  Since red blood cells have a life span of 120 days, this test looks at blood glucose over time.  For more info, check out the American Diabetes Association web page.

To read more about Neva’s talks at KIPP check out the previous posts The Plate Method and Titillating Tid Bits on Bites.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2011 11:37 am

    In today’s fast-pace world, it seems impossible to totally avoid fast food, no matter how much I would like to. Whether rushing to out-of-town football games after work or helping my son with a school project, I sometimes find myself with only two choices … eat fast food or don’t eat at all. Sound familiar to anyone?

    Guide to Healthy Fast-Food Eating to the rescue! This second edition book, endorsed by the American Diabetes Association, will help you make smarter choices when fast food is your only option. While helpful for everyone, this book should be in every diabetic’s pocket (or pocketbook). In addition to nutrition facts for the most popular fast-food restaurants in America, this book provides tips for diabetes-related dining dilemmas. I wish we would have had it two years ago, when my dad (a 50 year diabetic) passed out cold in a restaurant because he had administered his diabetes medication too long before our meal. Tips for prevention of these sorts of disasters are included in the chapter, Restaurant Dilemmas and Diabetes.

    In each of the chapters offering food selections at thirteen different restaurants, the author gives us the “light and lean” choice, as well as the “healthy `n’ hearty” choice. Evaluated on calories, percent of calories from fat, total milligrams of cholesterol, and total milligrams of sodium, the difference between the two lies in the calories. “Healthiest Bets” are marked with a checkmark. A chart of selections gives you the “skinny” on anything else you’d like to know about, such as amounts of saturated fat, sodium, total fat, and exchanges.

    If you’re like me, and you sometimes have to make a choice between no food or fast food, this book belongs in your handbag or briefcase, right beside your copy of Eat This, Not That. Fast food doesn’t have to mean fast fat … you just “need the facts, ma’am.”

    The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five is because I wish it included more restaurants.


  1. The Plate Method « Purposeful Eating
  2. Titillating Tid Bits on Bites « Purposeful Eating

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