Living with diabetes has its challenges, but it can be especially difficult during a global pandemic. “With diabetes, you have a compromised immune system,” ER doctor Travis Stork, host of The Doctors and creator of the podcast The Travis Stork Show, tells Yahoo Life.
More than 34 million Americans have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and 88 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition where a person’s blood sugar is elevated, but not high enough to be considered diabetes.
Of the millions of adults who have diabetes, more than 7 million are undiagnosed, the ADA reports. “The most likely symptom is nothing,” Stork says. “It’s pretty scary.”
Now, Stork recommends that people “use this time to hit that reset button,” including eating a healthier diet, getting more active and working with your physician on taking the right medication. “You’ll have more power than you ever thought imaginable helping to control your diabetes,” he says.
TRAVIS STORK: What if I said the most likely symptom is nothing. Scary, right? Because you can have something without knowing it. And that's the case with a lot of people in America. 88 million adults in this country right now are thought to have prediabetes. Maybe even more than that. The sooner you take action, if you're at risk, the better.
Over 34 million Americans live with diabetes. There's both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Although, the majority, over 90%, have what's known as type 2 diabetes. People who have diabetes, it tends to be a problem with the way insulin acts in your body, or they're unable to make insulin.
Insulin is so important because what insulin does is it helps your cells throughout your body. Your brain, your muscles use the sugar in your blood for energy. So type 1 diabetes typically happens when you're younger. And that's when your pancreas stops making insulin in a type 1 diabetic. They need insulin as a prescription medicine to help lower blood glucose levels.
Type 2 diabetes really what it means is your body is still making insulin, but your body's cells are not as sensitive to it. You can't get that sugar into your body's cells and, instead, it just hangs out in your blood. High blood sugar levels, high blood glucose levels can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, poor blood flow that can lead to severe infections.
But there's a silver lining for type 2 diabetics. That blood glucose level can be really responsive to things like the food you eat. White flour, white breads, white pasta, if you can start switching those over to the wholegrain versions which help stabilize blood sugar levels because of the fiber. The right medication regimen, that alone can prove quite beneficial.
Believe it or not, exercise tells your muscle cells to gobble up glucose. Your body can become more efficient at using insulin, and you can naturally lower your blood glucose levels. You might always be at risk for high blood sugars, but it is treatable if proper steps are taken.
I can't remember a time in my life when everyone has been this focused on health. But this pandemic, if nothing else, has made us take stock of where we are in our lives and where our health is. So I would just urge everyone to use this time as an opportunity to hit that reset button. Eat a healthier diet, get a little bit more active, work with your doctor to get on the right medication regimen. You'll have more power than you ever thought imaginable helping control your diabetes.