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Prediabetes

By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical Group

Eileen Wyner, NP

What is prediabetes? Does it become diabetes? How is it diagnosed? How can it be treated? Do medications work? I feel like I have more and more patients asking me these questions and with recent statistics stating that over 54 million people in the US have prediabetes, I’m probably right. Prediabetes is a condition where the blood sugar is elevated but not so elevated that it’s diabetes. It typically does not have any symptoms, but there are instances where people might have symptoms of problems commonly associated with diabetes, such as retina changes or neuropathy. Some people may have a change in their skin called acanthosis nigricans. This means that the skin is darker in color in places like the armpit, behind the neck, or on the elbows, knees or knuckles.

Prediabetes is diagnosed with the same blood tests as those used to diagnose diabetes but the result parameters are different. Prediabetes is diagnosed when the A1C is between 5.7% and 6.4%; fasting glucose is between 100mg/dl and 125mg/dl; or when the 2 hour oral glucose tolerance test is between 140mg/dl and 199mg/dl. People that have a positive test are advised to have the test rechecked every 1 to 2 years to monitor for type 2 diabetes.

The cause of prediabetes is not known but it is thought that genetics may play a part and that there is increased insulin resistance. Much like with diabetes, there are established risk factors for the development of prediabetes. These risk factors include: age; positive family history; being of African American, Asian, Pacific Indian, and Hispanic ethnicity; overweight (especially with an increased abdominal girth); being sedentary; and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). A diagnosis of prediabetes does not mean an automatic progression to type 2 diabetes, but many people will progress to diabetes within 10 years of initial diagnosis.

There are many things that can be done to improve your health and possibly help the blood sugar values revert to normal range. There are some instances where metformin (Glucophage), a medication commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes, may be started, but that is an individual decision between the patient and their health care provider. The mainstay of treatment consists of lifestyle changes. For example: eating smaller portions, avoiding sugary beverages and fried foods, and walking most days of the week for 30 minutes at a moderate pace. I always tell my patients that they don’t have to join a gym or run a marathon, but they do have to move a little bit more each day. Remember, walking is the least costly form of exercise and will yield great benefits for your physical and mental health. I hope I have provided answers to your questions and some healthful tips to try and incorporate into your daily life. Now, I think I’ll take my own advice and leave the laptop behind so I can go take a walk in this gorgeous sunshine.

Health

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!

By Marjorie Clapp, MGH Dietetic Intern

The human body is comprised of roughly 60-70% water. For this reason, maintaining proper fluid balance can dramatically influence how well our bodily systems work, including nerves and muscles, cognition, and immune function. Unfortunately, staying hydrated isn’t always easy. In fact, about 70% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep you hydrated this summer.

How do I know if I’m dehydrated? Feeling thirsty is the most obvious indicator that you need to drink more. The color of your urine can also help determine your hydration status. Your urine should be pale yellow or clear. If it’s darker than that, it’s time to drink! Other common signs of dehydration include headache, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, and irritability.

Hydration Tip: Keep a tall glass of water on your bedside table and drink before getting ready for your day.

How much fluid do I need? Although fluid needs depend on many factors, including size, activity level, and climate, a good goal is to consume no less than 64oz each day, although some research estimates needs to be much higher (~90oz/day for women, ~125oz/day for men).

Hydration Tip: Exercisers require additional fluids to replenish water lost through sweat and respiration. Weigh yourself before and after working out and aim to consume 3 cups of water for every pound lost during exercise.

When is the best time to hydrate? Anytime! Aim to sip fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration. Although it’s recommended to consume the majority of your fluid from water; milk, juice, soda, and caffeinated beverages count towards your fluid goal. Just remember to read labels. Calories from sweetened beverages can add up quickly! Food can also help you reach your fluid goals. Water-rich foods include lettuce (96% water), watermelon (92% water), grapefruit (91% water), broccoli (91% water) and yogurt (89% water).

Hydration Tip: Keep a water bottle on hand in your bag or purse to encourage hydration throughout the day.

What about sports drinks? Most sports drinks contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphorus) and added sugars to help your body refuel after strenuous exercise. If you’re sweating heavily or exercising for more than 60 minutes, a sports drink may be appropriate. However, most people can rehydrate appropriately with water and a balanced post-workout snack such as an apple with string cheese, hummus and whole grain crackers, or a banana with 1-2 Tablespoons of nut butter.

Hydration Tip: Try diluting/cutting your sports drink with water to provide some electrolytes but reducing the sugar and calories.

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)
Health

Driving and Diabetes

By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical Group

Eileen Wyner, NPPossessing a driver’s license is a rite of passage in our society.
A driver’s license is seen as a gateway to independence and is a necessity for survival in many instances since many places in the US don’t have adequate public transportation. Driving is such a huge part of our lives, but there are instances when the ability to drive competently is also at issue. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) published a Position Statement on Diabetes and Driving in the 2014 Clinical Practice Recommendations. I would like to summarize the key points of this Position to provide an overview to help both people with diabetes and their health care providers have the best information about driving with diabetes.

The process for identifying drivers with diabetes varies from state to state, depending on what type of vehicle the driver needs to be licensed for. In some states, questions such as “Do you have any medical condition that may interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle?” are asked at the initial application for license. These questions may then prompt the need for further medical evaluation. There is no need for a medical examination just because the driver has diabetes. Most often a medical evaluation would be requested when there has been a documented episode of hypoglycemia while driving. Visit the ADA Website for more information on specific rules for each state.

Drivers with diabetes that are commercial drivers in interstate commerce have different rules and follow a set of uniform federal regulations. ALL drivers are subject to an examination every 2 years to update the driver’s ongoing general fitness. Drivers with diabetes managed with diet, exercise, and oral medications do not have any further requirements. Drivers who use insulin often require a more detailed medical evaluation so an exemption to drive and medical certification can be granted. Drivers for commercial motor vehicles, such as school bus drivers and vehicles that transport passengers or hazardous materials are subjected to more strict evaluations that differ state to state.

There are many factors to consider when caring for the driver with diabetes. I want to be clear: a diagnosis of diabetes or the use of oral medications or insulin does not mean that driving ability is compromised. The ADA has determined that the single most significant factor associated with collisions for drivers with diabetes appears to be a recent history of severe hypoglycemia regardless of diabetes type or treatment. The ADA Workgroup on Hypoglycemia defines severe hypoglycemia as an event that disrupts cognitive motor function and requires the assistance of another person to treat the hypoglycemic event.

The plan of assessment and care of the driver with diabetes needs to be individualized. It is important to not only review hypoglycemia awareness, but to also review the other conditions that could interfere with safe driving. These conditions may include decreased visual acuity due to retinopathy or cataracts, neuropathy that diminishes the sensation of the right foot, or sleep apnea which can result in daytime sleepiness. Drivers that have had a hypoglycemic event will need much closer evaluation and education. The driver may need re-education to address issues with mealtimes and dosing of medications (or medications may need to be adjusted altogether), further education about hypoglycemia awareness, and the best methods of treating low blood sugars. Drivers who have had episodes with severe hypoglycemia may also need to perform additional glucometer testing.

People driving for long distances should have a good supply of glucose tablets easily available in the glove compartment or in the console. A supply of snacks such as packages of cheese and peanut butter crackers or nuts should also be stored in the front of the car with the driver and checked before each trip. Drivers who feel hypoglycemia occurring while driving should pull off the road immediately, put on their blinkers, and treat with a fast acting carbohydrate. Do not resume driving until blood sugar values are normalized.

Finally, I advise that all of my patients with diabetes have a medical ID with them at all times. Symptoms of hypoglycemia may appear as if driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which can lead to losing precious treatment time if there is an incident where you are unable to identify yourself as having diabetes.  First responders are trained to look for things like a bracelet or necklace, or a card in the wallet.

Health

Healthy Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

The holidays are a time of fun and excitement, but they can also be a time of added stress.

While stress is a normal part of life, it can have an impact on diabetes management. Stress hormones can raise blood sugar, and prolonged stress weakens the immune system and interferes with healthy self-care routines.

Stay healthy and enjoy the season with these techniques for managing holiday stress:

  • Prioritize – A common cause of holiday stress is trying to do too much at once. Focus on those things that are most important to you, and don’t be afraid to say “no” to taking on new commitments.
  • Take “time out” (Find a distraction) – Take a break and do something to clear your mind. Spend time with or call friends. Engage in some other activity you enjoy (like a favorite hobby).
  • Get Moving – Exercise is a known stress reducer, and sticking with your regular fitness routine can help with maintaining good blood sugar control. Small steps make a difference! Go for a walk, put on a yoga video or dance to a song on the radio.
  • Relax – Mind-body activities like meditation, deep breathing or positive visualizations elicit the relaxation response, the body’s built-in counter to the stress response.

Losing or maintaining a healthy weight is another source of stress for many during the holidays. The added pressures of the holidays can also contribute to emotional or stress eating (eating for reasons other than hunger). Signs of stress eating can be turning to comfort food after a difficult day, or mindlessly munching on snacks to burn off nervous energy. The downside is many comfort foods are high in sugar (which can raise blood sugar), fat, and calories. Distracted snacking makes it easy to take in more calories than expected. Consider preparing some healthy snacks to have accessible.

The techniques above can help with coping with stress eating as well, but if you’re still craving a crunchy snack or Mom’s Mac and Cheese go ahead and have some – just do so mindfully. Keep track of portion size, and eat slowly so you can really enjoy the food’s taste and texture.

It’s not possible to avoid all stress completely, but one final thing to remember is the holiday season (and the stress that comes along with it) is temporary. Slow down and enjoy the best the season has to offer. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed or think you might be experiencing diabetes burnout, talk to your health care provider or a diabetes educator.

(Post content reviewed by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine)
Announcements

Save the Date: World Diabetes Day

WDD candidAnnual World Diabetes Day Awareness Event

Thursday, November 13 10:00 am—3:00 pm MGH Main Lobby near Coffee Central This year’s event will focus on developing a healthy lifestyle and preventive care.

  • Talk to an exercise physiologist about your fitness goals.
  • Ask our dietitians questions about food and nutrition.
  • Learn about stress reducing techniques and get a free massage.
  • Plus trivia, games and prizes!
Health

Diabetes and Sleep Apnea

By Matt T. Bianchi, MD, PhD
Chief, Division of Sleep Medicine

In an era when advanced technologies, imaging, genetics, and personalized medicine is making heroic steps towards improving healthcare it may come as a surprise that a common and serious disorder with multiple available treatments remains largely undiagnosed. Yet such is the case for sleep apnea, which affects about 10% of adults but is diagnosed in fewer than half of these.  Sleep apnea is defined as repeated obstructions in breathing during sleep, each lasting typically 20-30 seconds.  These events can range from complete obstruction (apnea) to partial obstruction (hypopnea) and are often accompanied by drops in oxygen.

Sleep apnea is more common in people with diabetes, especially if other risks like obesity are present. Undiagnosed sleep apnea can increase risk of heart attack and stroke – which are already increased in those with diabetes. Sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea can also make it harder to keep blood sugars under control. Other risk factors include male sex, older age, smoking, and alcohol use. Those who have already had a heart attack or stroke, or who have poorly controlled blood pressure, are also at increased risk.

Diagnostic testing, performed in the laboratory or sometimes even at home, involves monitoring breathing and oxygen levels. Pauses in breathing (obstructions) occurring at 5 or more times per hour indicate sleep apnea is present. Increased pause rate means increased severity of the problem (15-30 is moderate; >30 is severe). This disorder often comes with snoring, sleepiness and being overweight – but not in every case.

There are many treatment options for those with sleep apnea. Wearing a mask known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) while sleeping is the standard treatment. Although some initially find the prospect of this treatment daunting, there are dozens of different kinds of masks to help accommodate each person’s needs and comfort. Alternatives come in two categories: surgical and non-surgical. Surgeries include soft palate surgery and jaw advancement surgery, as well as a new stimulator device that acts like a pacemaker to prevent obstructions in sleep. Dental appliances can be made that pull the bottom jaw forward in sleep – these are made by specially trained dentists.

For some people, the sleep apnea is present mainly when they sleep on their back.  In these cases avoiding that position can be helpful. This can be accomplished with a shirt/vest that has a bumper on the back that makes back-sleeping uncomfortable. (The challenge is that some people end up sleeping on their back for some or all their sleep regardless.) Finally, weight loss can be helpful for those patients who are overweight. Whichever treatment pathways are chosen, alone or in combination, it is best to speak with your doctor about your choices and how to monitor your progress.