All Posts Tagged: Diabetes

Treating Diabetes through Rehabilitation

For many, a healthy diet and regular exercise are self-prescribed ways to feel better. But for people with diabetes, diet and exercise often are medically recommended to help treat the disease.

Diabetes is a disorder where either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells in the body do not recognize the insulin.

To understand diabetes, you first need to understand the role of insulin in your body. When you eat, your body turns your food into sugar, also called glucose. At that point, the pancreas releases insulin to open the body’s cells to allow the sugar to enter so it can be used for energy.

But with diabetes, the system doesn’t work.

Without insulin, the sugar stays and builds up in the blood. So the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose. If left untreated, complications can develop with the skin, eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.

There are different types of diabetes, with the most common form called type 2 or adult onset diabetes. People with this type of diabetes can produce some of their own insulin, but often it’s not enough. Some of the common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling very hungry even when you’ve eaten
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Slow healing cuts or bruises
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in hands or feet

Treatment for diabetes usually includes diet and exercise – and medicine if sugar levels remain high after lifestyle adjustments. At rehabilitation hospitals, diabetic patients often are provided a medically supervised care plan that includes physical exercise and healthy eating strategies.

Exercise helps control diabetes because it allows glucose to enter the cells without the use of insulin. It also can help lower blood glucose levels and blood pressure. In addition, exercise assists in weight loss and improves balance and energy levels.

A combination of both aerobic exercise and resistance training has the most positive effect on blood glucose levels. Physical therapists can help individualize and supervise exercises that will be the most beneficial to a patient. They monitor the exercise program to ensure safety and progress, while improving and maintaining sugar levels. The exercise plan can be carried out at home after the individual leaves the hospital.

A healthy diet also is integral to managing diabetes. How much and what types of foods are eaten affect the balance of insulin in the body and make a difference in blood glucose levels. Dietitians at rehabilitation hospitals can teach patients about carbohydrates in food, how it affects the glucose levels, and they provide practical strategies for healthy cooking and eating.

Typically through rehabilitation hospitals, patients not only receive treatment, but are educated on how to manage the disease to the best of their ability in their everyday lives. This helps them to live as independently as possible.

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Circulation & Diabetes

The possible outcomes of poor circulation in diabetics can be quite scary, but the reality (as it is in most diabetic complications) is that the more dramatic results can often be staved off by positive lifestyle choices.

Exercise

The act of exercising your body is beneficial in countless ways, including increased blood flow through the dilation of the blood vessels. When you exercise, vessels open up to allow more blood to feed the muscles with much-needed oxygen. For someone suffering from poor circulation, this provides a much-needed boost of blood to parts of the body that may have been desperately needing it.

While there are certain full-body exercises that are especially good for circulation, such as Yoga and swimming, even a short-but-brisk walk will provide the extremities with more blood.

Exercising on a regular basis will allow your body to replenish limbs with blood frequently, and help prevent complications like sores and ulcers that are difficult to heal.

When dealing with poor circulation, it is incredibly important to speak with your physician about your exercise options. He or she might have exercise plans that are specific to your circulatory needs that will better aid you in your recovery.

Diet

Along with exercise, consuming foods that help control your blood sugar (especially those that inherently improve blood flow themselves) can keep the symptoms of poor circulation at bay. High-saturated fat, high cholesterol, and high-sugar foods all have the tendencies to clog arteries, and adding the blood vessel-damaging power of high glucose to the mix creates the perfect environment for poor circulation.

Eating foods that are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and whole sources of fiber have been known to increase blood flow, as well as help in waste removal from the blood. Raw seeds, oats, citrus fruits, and leafy greens are fantastic foods to add to your weekly menu, bringing anti-inflammatory properties and much-needed minerals to the plate.

As with exercise, speaking to your physician about diet changes (especially if a patient is diabetic) is imperative when trying to manage your circulation issues. If you’ve been honest and thorough when sharing your medical history, your doctor might be able to assign a more personalized diet to you that could provide you with a much speedier recovery than you had anticipated.

Other Treatments

If diet and exercise simply are not helping with circulatory issues, then medical or surgical intervention may be utilized. Certain diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure medications have been known to help with circulation, and medications that help prevent blood clots may be prescribed as well.

Surgical options are angioplasty (inflation of a small balloon inside an artery), stents, artery bypasses, and surgical plaque removal.

Simple Steps = Simple Success

Managing diabetes and diabetes-related circulation issues go hand in hand. Many of the lifestyle changes demanded by diabetes are the same as the ones that will help improve your circulation: increased exercise, healthy diet, and not smoking. Simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or a quick walk after dinner can make an immense difference in your circulation.

Sources:

http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/complications-prevention/diabetic-leg-pain-and-peripheral-arterial-disease/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/153025-exercises-to-increase-blood-circulation-for-diabetics/

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/healthy-foods-that-improve-your-blood-flow/

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How Diabetes Relates to Heart Disease & Stroke

Being diagnosed with diabetes usually means you have to watch your blood sugar, mainly through diet, exercise, and medication. However, diabetes can cause a variety of complications throughout the entire body—but how?

The answer is the circulatory system.

The circulatory system is responsible for the transportation of blood throughout the body, providing nutrients and oxygen to cells, as well as transporting waste and carbon dioxide away from them. When the body begins producing and retaining too much glucose (blood sugar), the substance is not isolated to one sector of the body. The circulatory system pushes and pulls the glucose throughout the entirety of the body via the blood. The excessive amounts of sugar cause damage to blood vessels and the organs that are associated with those vessels suffer the consequences.

Diabetes and Heart Disease

One of the organs that most severely feels the effects of diabetes is the heart. Simply being diagnosed with diabetes dramatically raises a patient’s chances of encountering heart disease. The chances of getting heart disease at a younger age than most, as well as the severity of the heart disease itself, are increased when diabetes enters a patient’s life.

As the vessels supplying blood to the heart become damaged, clogged, or hardened by the high presence of glucose, the heart’s ability to receive (and therefore send out) blood is negatively affected. Types of heart disease that are specific to diabetes are Coronary Heart Disease (a buildup of a substance called “plaque” in the arteries), Heart Failure (when the heart is unable to pump the necessary amount of blood), and Diabetic Cardiomyopathy (a disease that damages the actual function and structure of the heart).

Diabetes and Stroke

Another major organ that suffers damage from diabetes is the brain. The brain thrives on oxygen-rich blood in order to function, and when the blood vessels that provide the blood are affected by excessive glucose, very serious complications can occur. When a vessel responsible for providing blood to the brain closes off or bursts, that part of the brain will become oxygen-deprived, and the cells will die. This can result in speech impairments, vision problems, and mobility issues, including paralysis. Like heart disease, being diagnosed with diabetes can significantly raise your chances of stroke.

We know the struggles that patients encounter as they work to regain lost abilities, and our goal is to help those patients overcome them. We feel it is also our responsibility, however, to educate our community about the causes of these conditions, in the hopes of preventing them.

We will continue to explore the topic of diabetes and circulation in our next post, as we learn about lifestyle changes and management techniques that may help patients cope with (and even prevent) these complications.

Sources:

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/body/circulatory-system.html

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/heart-disease/

http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/stroke/

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dhd

 

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Traveling with Diabetes

So many fun things happen during the summer, and traveling is one of them. Whether you’re going to a summer camp, a family reunion, or vacation someone is inevitably bound to forget a swimsuit or toothbrush, or a favorite stuffed animals are left by the door. These situations can be disappointing but rarely do they completely unravel someone’s plans.

This is not the case, however, when a travel hitch involves your diabetes. If you’re not properly prepared, a diabetic travel complication can range from, at the very least, a huge inconvenience, to, at worst, a life-threatening situation.

By developing a travel checklist that utilizes a few of these helpful tips, you’ll be able to minimize your risk of a diabetes-related travel disruption.

Before You Go:

Talk to your doctor. If you are planning a long trip, especially one by air, it’s crucial to have a discussion and schedule an appointment with your doctor. This will give you both a better picture of your current diabetic health, the chance to get any needed immunizations, and a critical travel letter describing your diabetes plan.

While this letter is not required by US Airport Security, it can be extremely helpful should questions or a need for documentation arise. The letter should include your diabetes treatment plan, a list of prescriptions, and a description of the supplies required for your diabetic care.

Research your destination. When traveling with diabetes, a little research can bring great peace of mind. If you’re heading to another country, finding a hospital or doctor who speaks a language you are fluent in can save you from a lot of headaches. Learning key phrases in the country’s language, such as “I have diabetes,” or “sugar or juice, please” can be very helpful in an emergency. For more information on an emergency abroad, please click here to visit the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers page containing useful phone numbers and resources.

What to Pack:

Don’t forget your documentation. Not only is it important to bring a detailed travel letter from your physician, you should also make sure to pack a prescription for insulin or diabetes pills, should you encounter an emergency.

In addition to these two pieces of paper, your medical ID is essential. By wearing one as a bracelet or necklace, you eliminate any possibility of leaving your information in a hotel room or briefcase. In an emergency, physicians can learn about your diabetes, allergies, and insulin needs so that they may properly treat your symptoms.

Keep your supplies close. You should pack a diabetes kit containing all of the supplies you need on a regular basis, and pack it in a carry-on. Never check your diabetes supplies with the rest of your luggage. The cargo hold is not equipped to keep a proper temperature, and you run the risk of being separated from your baggage, which could be devastating. Packing at least twice the amount of needed medications and supplies is also a good idea.

Tips:

  1. Contact the airline a few days prior to your flight. This is a great time to clarify insulin/supply rules, and to request a meal that is friendly to your needs.
  2. Remember: Eastward travel means you will “lose” time, so less insulin may be needed. Westward travel “gains” time, often requiring more insulin.
  3. Allow yourself a period of rest after you arrive at your destination; this will allow you time to recover after the flight and settle yourself with your medication needs and changing routine.
  4. Check your glucose often; new routines, foods, and environments can throw off your insulin levels, and it’s important to stay on top of them.
  5. Pack airline-approved snacks. This way, you can help control your levels without too much fuss or inconvenience.

Diabetes isn’t something that should keep you from traveling. Even with this disease, you can enjoy a much-needed vacation or expertly handle an important business trip—as long as you employ some thoughtful planning and deliberate preparation.

Sources:

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/travel/air-travel-and-insulin.html

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/when-you-travel.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

https://www.bd.com/us/diabetes/page.aspx?cat=7001&id=7355

 

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Diabetes in Men

There’s no better time than Men’s Health Month to discuss an issue that is unfortunately on the rise for men – diabetes. In fact, one of the biggest jumps in type 2 diabetes was among men, and the risk for diabetes usually increases with age. But a lack of understanding and education about the disease is a significant barrier when it comes to good health.

What is diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your body can’t properly control blood glucose. Food is normally broken down into glucose, a form of sugar, which is then released into the blood. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates cells to use glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when tissues in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Eventually, blood sugar levels begin to climb.

The Dangers of Diabetes

High glucose levels in the blood cause nerve damage, as well as damage to blood vessels. In turn, this damage can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, gum infections, blindness, as well as issues like erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea. Moreover, the death rate from heart disease is much higher for men who have diabetes, while amputation rates due to diabetes-related issues are higher for men than women.

Who is at risk?

As mentioned, the risk factor for type 2 diabetes usually increases with age, and it’s advised that testing for this disease should begin at age 45 – even in the absence of risk factors. Those risk factors include:

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little activity. Studies show that overweight people improve their blood sugar control when they become active.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar and low in fiber and whole grains.
  • Having a history of type 2 diabetes in your immediate family, such as a mother, father, sister or brother.
  • Those with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes also includes African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Aging – because the body becomes less tolerant of sugars as you get older.
  • People who have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of problems related to cholesterol.

What’s scary is that an estimated 7 million people in the United States don’t know that they have diabetes. Meanwhile, millions of people have elevated blood sugars that aren’t yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, but are considered to have prediabetes and are at greater risk for diabetes in the future. However, doctors can easily check for diabetes through blood tests that measure blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Any of the following are symptoms of diabetes, and you should get tested for the disease if you’re experiencing them:
  • An increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Preventing Diabetes

Diabetes clearly is a disease with serious health implications, but the good news is that the vast majority of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or significantly delayed through a combination of exercise and healthy eating. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 15 pounds) can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes. Cells in the muscles, liver, and fat tissue become resistant to insulin when you’re carrying excess weight. It’s recommended that you build up to 30 minutes of activity a day, five days a week.

Experts also say that a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – with small amounts of sugar and carbohydrates – can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

In many cases, lifestyle changes like the ones listed above can keep diabetes under control. Many people, however, need to take oral medications that lower blood sugar levels. When those aren’t effective, insulin injections (or insulin that’s inhaled) may be necessary, sometimes in conjunction with oral medication. Diabetes treatment has improved over the years, but controlling it still remains a challenge.

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