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A Full Circle Approach to Diabetes Prevention and Treatment

More than 21 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, but there are probably 8 million more who have it and don’t know it. It’s estimated that one in three individuals in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and that’s a major contributor to this disease.

Diabetes Circle graphicAt Circle Health, we are fully committed to the fight against diabetes. With a strong focus on education, diagnostics and treatments, coupled with the latest in disease management options and support, we work to help individuals reduce their risk and better manage this life-changing illness. Our Circle Health physicians and member organizations — Lowell General Hospital and Circle Home — work with our partners at Lowell Community Health Center to offer a collaborative approach to diabetes care for thousands of residents throughout the Merrimack Valley. In addition to this collaboration, we know how important ongoing communication with our patients is. So our Circle Health providers are also proactively reaching out to patients to remind them to complete important blood tests to ensure their blood sugar levels are well controlled and helping them schedule their recommended annual eye exams.

Dr. ArizaA board-certified specialist in endocrinology, Miguel A. Ariza, MD, FACE, ECNU, is a provider at the Lowell Diabetes & Endocrine Center at Lowell General Hospital and serves as medical director of the hospital’s Diabetes Management Center. Here he shares some important information about diabetes:

What exactly is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the level of sugar in your blood (blood glucose) is too high. This happens when the body can’t make or is resistant to insulin — a hormone or substance produced in the pancreas that regulates blood sugar — leading to elevated levels of glucose in the blood.

Are there different types of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes — once called juvenile diabetes — is when the pancreas produces little to no insulin.
Type 2 diabetes — once called adult-onset diabetes or insulin-resistant diabetes — is when the body is resistant to insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can also develop during pregnancy.

Diabetes is happening in increasingly younger people, correct?

Yes, especially type 2 diabetes. We once thought of type 2 diabetes as something that happened in middle-aged or older adults, which is why it used to be called adult-onset diabetes. Unfortunately, we’re now seeing it in adolescents and children.

What’s causing this?

It’s the obesity epidemic. Obesity is the biggest contributor to developing diabetes, and that’s related to lack of physical activity, poor nutrition and lack of portion control.

What puts someone at risk for developing diabetes?

With type 2 diabetes, it’s mostly lifestylerelated. Anyone who is overweight or obese and leads a sedentary life is at risk. Anyone with a family history of diabetes is also at risk.

What can we do to prevent diabetes?

The most important intervention is education. We must teach kids from an early age how to eat right and value exercise. This is what’s going to make a huge difference in curbing the diabetes epidemic.

What are the recommendations for testing and screening for diabetes?

In general, most adults should have a regular physical with their primary care physician and have either a fasting blood sugar test (a simple blood test) or an oral glucose tolerance test — especially if they are at high risk for developing diabetes.

What is the glycemic index and why is it important for people to know about?

This is a number assigned to foods that tells us how a particular food affects blood sugar. Not all foods are created equal. For those who have or are at risk of diabetes, they must understand that if a certain food will affect their blood sugar significantly, they should avoid that food or restrict the portion amount.

Why is it so important to control blood sugar levels?

Poorly controlled blood sugar can lead to complications in almost any organ of the body over time. It can lead to blindness, kidney failure, high blood pressure, heart failure and limb amputations because circulation is compromised. Changing lifestyle habits has clearly been shown to reduce the risk of these complications, so it’s so important to make the investment in ourselves through diet and being active. We can’t expect a pill or medicine to take care of the problem.

Is there anything else you think is important for people to know?

Yes, another important piece of managing diabetes is mental health. Depression can be a barrier to getting diabetes under control, and about 20 percent of people with diabetes have depression. When we talk about making changes, mental health is something that needs to be addressed.

Diabetes Definitions

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