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National Diabetes Week: Answering Your Questions

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 5:07 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - It is National Diabetes Week and a LewisGale physician answered some of your questions about the disease.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, one in three Virginians is pre-diabetic. Residents of the more rural portions of the state, like central and southwest Virginia, are disproportionately impacted by the disease.

Dr. Brittany Jones, a physician at the LewisGale Montgomery Corporate Research Center, joined us live on the WDBJ7+ Digital News Desk to better help us understand diabetes and answered some of your questions.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TYPE 1 AND TYPE 2?

Type 1: Dr. Jones said Type 1 diabetes is the disease typically associated with young children. The problem is that the pancreas stops making enough insulin. The diabetic needs assistance to get blood sugar into the body to feed the cells.

Type 2: This is the form of diabetes that is more often associated with lifestyle and diet choices. The body is resisting and doesn’t respond as well to the insulin you are making. The body is not as good at getting it into the cells to burn for energy.

HOW DO I LOWER My A1C?

“Great question,” said Dr. Jones. She said it’s important for individuals to talk with their physicians to better understand what their dietary and exercise goals should be. But she recommends incorporating 30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week. Stick to a medication regimen as directed by your doctors. And, Dr. Jones said, focus on a low-carb diet. She said it would be especially helpful to enroll in a diabetes education program. You can access resources through the Virginia Cooperative Extension and American Diabetes Association.

HOW DO I PREVENT PAIN IN MY LEGS?

Dr. Jones said one way to do this is to make sure your blood sugars are controlled. Work on lowering your A1C. She recommends talking with your doctor about your leg pain - some additional medications and/or therapeutic treatments could be helpful.

WHAT IS THE PREVALENCE OF TYPE 2 IN SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA?

Dr. Jones said southwest Virginia carries a large burden of Type 2 diabetes. Nationwide, Type 2 tends to disproportionately affect people living in lower-income areas, thanks to a lack of access to healthy food and medical care - along with a host of other resources. You can learn more about that in our story in which a local health educator says diabetes is a health crisis.

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC:

While she is not aware of any specific studies relating diabetes to COVID, Jones said she can say from experience that much of our preventative and routine care was deferred during the pandemic.

“And so now that we’re sort of on the back end of that we’re seeing a lot of people coming back in for their routine care and it seems things have kind of accumulated while we were delaying the preventative care,” she explained. “Some conditions that developed and went on longer than they should have - higher rates of obesity - which is a risk factor for diabetes.”

PREVENTION:

Ultimately, Dr. Jones said the ideal goal is to delay onset of diabetes for pre-diabetics as much as possible. She encourages those who are diagnosed with prediabetes to sign up for a prevention class.

“That can be really helpful to get the basics of the lifestyle you need to follow,” she said. “ It’s going to be a lot of routine regular cardio exercise and lower carb diet, lots of protein sources, lean protein sources and veggies.”

COST:

The overwhelming cost of diabetes has been part of national headlines for many years. Dr. Jones said there are some resources available to people who may have difficulty affording their medication. This is a conversation she said individuals should bring up to their doctor.

THE BIG TAKEAWAY:

With Type 2 specifically, it’s really about lifestyle,” Dr. Jones explained. “Modifying your diet and exercising. Avoiding a lot of extra sugars, especially in beverages. Sweet Tea, soda - those are some common culprits.”

She said to keep diabetes from developing or to manage your diabetes, these are things you have to do now.

“I’ve seen patients be able to come off of medications too just with following those lifestyle things,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a lifetime diagnosis.”

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