Ask a Nurse: Got Sugar?

Ask a Nurse: Got Sugar?

Pamela is an RN, MSN/Ed.

Pamela is a mother of 6 amazing children ages 11 to 24. She is a nurse educator and loves to travel overseas to work in medical clinics and teach health-related topics to schools and communities. She has been married to her best friend, Steve, for 29 years. She has many different interests including reading, writing (NOT arithmetic!), baking, teaching, and spending time with her family. She lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and two youngest daughters.

Got Sugar?

What do you know about Diabetes, beside the recent news that Paula Deen has it? Here are some startling facts:

Diabetes affects 25.8 million people of all ages
8.3 percent of the U.S. population

18.8 million people

7.0 million people

  • Among U.S. residents ages 65 years and older, 10.9 million, or 26.9 percent, had diabetes in 2010.
  • About 215,000 people younger than 20 years had diabetes—type 1 or type 2—in the United States in 2010.
  • About 1.9 million people ages 20 years or older were newly diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 in the United States.
  • In 2005–2008, 35 percent of U.S. adults ages 20 years or older had prediabetes—50 percent of adults ages 65 years or older. Applying this percentage to the entire U.S. population in 2010 yields an estimated 79 million American adults ages 20 years or older with prediabetes.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States.
  • Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States (american diabetes association, 2012)

What are the symptoms of Diabetes?
People who think they might have Diabetes must visit a physician for diagnosis. They might have SOME or NONE of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • More infections than usual.

Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains may accompany some of these symptoms in the abrupt onset of insulin-dependent Diabetes, now called type 1 Diabetes.

What are the types of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If not treated, it can cause problems for mothers and babies. Gestational diabetes develops in 2% to 10% of all pregnancies but usually disappears when a pregnancy is over.

What are the risk factors for diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 Diabetes include older age, obesity, family history of Diabetes, prior history of gestational Diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 Diabetes.

Risk factors are less well defined for type 1 diabetes than for type 2 Diabetes, but autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved in developing this type of Diabetes.

Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of Diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk. Women who have had gestational Diabetes have a 35% to 60% chance of developing Diabetes in the next 10–20 years.

Other specific types of Diabetes, which may account for 1% to 5% of all diagnosed cases, result from specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses.

I, myself, had gestational Diabetes. My children were over 9 and 10 lbs except for my last child who weighed in at a very normal 7.9 lbs. When a baby is born to a mother with gestational Diabetes they often have trouble maintaining a normal blood sugar. Glucose water or very frequent feeding helps the first hours after birth. What can a person do to try to prevent getting Diabetes? I have comprised a list of the top ways to do your part in preventing Diabetes. Remember, some risk factors you cannot change, such as family history and race. Do your part on what you can change!

There is a lot of research on how to prevent Diabetes; these 5 tips seem to come up on every list:

  1. Exercise! Exercise can reduce your chance of developing type 2 Diabetes. Find something active that you like to do and it will be easier to keep up with it.  Make it a family activity and encourage each other.
  1. Keep at or get to a healthy weight. This alone will greatly reduce your chance of developing Diabetes. Start by focusing on eating smaller portions and increasing your activity levels.
  1. Eat a diet rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats.  These types of fats are found in canola oil, olive oil and fats from nuts, avocados and seeds.
  1. Eat more plant based foods.  Eating a diet focused on whole grains and vegetables will fill you up and help reduce your risk of Diabetes.
  1. Stay away from sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates. White bread, white rice, cookies, sodas and white potatoes all cause your blood sugar to spike. Eating a diet based on these can greatly increase your risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.

That’s it! These 5 simple tips can drastically reduce your chance of developing type 2 Diabetes. If you have trouble getting started you can ask your family doctor for help. It also may help to share your goals with your friends and/or family. Using the buddy system or working as a family can help you stay on track.

Simple? Well, if it were that simple none of us would have trouble staying on our diet and exercise plans. Unfortunately, it takes a LOT of will power and practice until these changes become a part of your lifestyle. Start out with small goals and add a new healthy habit each week.

Since March is National nutrition month, I will have a few more articles focusing on nutrition, send me your questions to

Until next week-

Be well,


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 Here’s an opportunity to join a diabetes research study.  I haven’t tried this but If you decide to look into it can you let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Click on this link to try it out   Diabetes Study

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