Managing diabetes to stay healthy

May 30, 2017

By Amelia Neumeister Controlling blood sugar is important for people with diabetes, but other conditions need to be managed as well to provide the best health outcomes, according to Dr. Jared Ellis, assistant professor of family medicine for the College of Community Health Sciences and associate director of its Family Medicine Residency. During a presentation for the Mini Medical School Program, a lecture series the College provides in collaboration with UA’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Ellis spoke about ways diabetes can manage their disease to stay healthy. He said controlling blood sugar is important in managing microvascular issues associated with diabetes, such as damage to eyes, kidneys and nerves. “This is impacted by sugar control,” Ellis said in his presentation, “Providing quality care for the improvement of diabetes.” Diabetes is the top cause of acquired blindness in the US, Ellis said, explaining that for diabetics, tiny blood vessels behind the eyes can become blocked and there can be bleeding. Diabetics also have a higher risk of cataracts and glaucoma. Diabetes is also the No. 1 cause of kidney failure in the US, and it can lead to diabetic neuropathy, which reduces the blood supply to nerves, causing a loss of feeling, typically beginning in the feet. “Getting the sugar down helps,” Ellis said. Blood sugar control has less of an impact on macro vascular diseases associated with diabetes, such as heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease, Ellis said, adding that good blood pressure and cholesterol control are more important. “We want to see more good than bad cholesterol,” he said. In addition, people with diabetes are more susceptible to infections, so they should stay up-to-date on their immunizations, particularly for flu, pneumonia, tetanus and pertussis. Blood sugar can be controlled through diet, exercise and medication. Ellis suggested making reasonable changes to diet, but “eating closer to the vine and tree is important. Read food labels, although that can be tricky.” He said diabetics shouldn’t be discouraged if they can’t get to the gym to exercise. “Just move. If it’s a nice day, park farther from the door. Moving more is the key.” His prescription for self-management of diabetes: “Be knowledgeable, be proactive and not reactive, and keep up with your lab results.”