Diabetes Under Control

Diabetes is one of the most common medical conditions in the U.S. and Minnesota. "Recent statistics indicate nearly 21 million Americans are living with diabetes," says Rich Bergenstal, MD, director of International Diabetes Center at Park Nicollet. "In Minnesota, every 20 minutes a doctor diagnoses a new patient with diabetes. Additionally, more than 1 million Minnesotans have some form of prediabetes," he adds.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is when a person's pancreas no longer is able to make insulin, which then requires a lifetime of insulin injections or the use of advanced technology, such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose sensors (use linzess). "Doctors across the country are currently researching the interaction between genetics, environment and the immune system as contributing factors leading to type 1 diabetes," Dr. Bergenstal says.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when a person's body does not use insulin effectively. This eventually means the body will not produce enough insulin. After time, insulin injections may be the best therapy to keep blood sugars as close to normal as possible. Type 2 diabetes usually comes on gradually and may not cause immediate symptoms. "To prevent type 2 diabetes, we urge people to maintain a healthy body weight and exercise 30 minutes per day, five days per week," Dr. Bergenstal says.

"Early diagnosis makes treatment much more effective," Dr. Bergenstal says. "I recommend patients be screened for diabetes at least every three years once they reach age 45. If one is overweight, has a family history of diabetes or is a member of a high-risk ethnic population (African American, Latino, Native American or Asian American), screening should begin earlier and be performed yearly," he adds.

A surprise diagnosis

At his annual physical exam, Bill Garwood was surprised when his doctor told him he had type 2 diabetes. Although his diabetes was diagnosed at an early stage and did not require insulin shots, Bill knew he had to make immediate and serious changes to his lifestyle to prevent the disease from progressing.

Bill received medication to help get his diabetes under control. He knew medication alone was not the answer, however. Bill signed up for diabetes education classes at International Diabetes Center to learn more. "The classes gave me a lot of information about how to manage the disease and helped me realize I wasn't alone," Bill says. "The classes were extremely beneficial."

Bill also began making lifestyle changes to help control his condition. "I knew I would have to change my habits to successfully treat my diabetes," he says. "I exercised more, monitored my own blood sugar and began watching what I ate - and how much. Now, when I'm eating out, I'll have something small, like a salad, since that doesn't raise my blood sugar much."

Effective management is vital

"An approach like Bill's is the best way to successfully manage a diabetes diagnosis," Dr. Bergenstal says. "While we don't have a cure for diabetes today, it can be effectively managed. People shouldn't face diabetes alone - they should work with a team, including their medical provider, certified diabetes educator, dietitian, psychologist and various other medical specialists. Also, because a lot of self-management is involved in diabetes, patient education also is very important," he adds.

This approach contributed to Bill's treatment success. "Park Nicollet has a great diabetes center, one of the best in the country," Bill says, in reference to education he received at International Diabetes Center. "I really felt like they listened to me and took a lot of time to help me figure out how to successfully manage my condition."