By DOUG GILES, DPT
According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 26 million children and adults are living with diabetes (about 8% of the population). Of these, an estimated 19 million have been diagnosed, whereas 7 million are unaware that they have the disease. About 79 million people have “pre-diabetes,” a condition in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are abnormal but are not yet considered diabetic. That’s a lot of people!
In diabetes, the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Produced by the pancreas, insulin is a hormone needed to allow glucose (sugar) to enter the cell and provide the energy necessary for daily activities. When the pancreas doesn’t produce adequate amounts of insulin, or when the muscle, fat and liver cells don’t respond to insulin properly, glucose builds up in the blood (hyperglycemia). This can be toxic to your cells. In addition, because of the reduced glucose uptake into the cells, they can use an abnormal amount of fat for fuel (ketoacidosis) and may become undernourished.
There are 3 main types of diabetes:
• Type 1 diabetes – develops most often in children and young adults; the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells (beta cells) of the pancreas.
•Type 2 diabetes – can develop at any age and is largely preventable; the cells of the body become resistant to insulin, and the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to override the resistance.
•Gestational diabetes – develops in women during pregnancy; it occurs more often in African Americans, American Indians, Hispanic Americans, and women with a family history of diabetes and also is associated with obesity and inactivity.
Although the exact cause of diabetes is unknown, factors such as obesity and lack of exercise play important roles in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can result in such conditions as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy, perpherial vascular disease, amputations and skin problems and infections.
Diabetes symptoms include: Increased thirst, frequent urination, constant or extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing sores, high blood pressure and frequent infections such as gum or skin infections and vaginal or bladder infections.
Physical activity, along with diet and medication, is a cornerstone of treatment for diabetes—and physical activity is a cornerstone for prevention of diabetes.
If you already have diabetes, you know that you need to control your blood glucose (sugar), lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Regular physical activity also can reduce your need for medications, particularly if you have pre-diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days per week. Both aerobic and strength workouts are helpful.
In physical therapy, after a thorough evaluation a customized exercise program with diabetic patients is designed and implemented. Patients are educated about the most beneficial types of exercise, and are supervised carefully to make sure they are doing them safely.
Often, insurance companies will cover physical therapy for diabetics that meet certain conditions. Speak with your doctor or physical therapist to see if you qualify.
Doug Giles, DPT is a licensed physical therapist and has his Doctorate in Physical Therapy. He sees patients at FIT Physical Therapy located at 475 N. Moapa Valley Blvd in Overton. He can be reached at 702-397-6700.