Are You Paying Attention to Your Blood Sugar?

May 8, 2018

 

Queen Aimuyo, FNP-C, USMD Denton North Clinic, on diabetes and blood sugarLots of us keep an eye on our blood pressure. And most of us know about the danger of high cholesterol. But for some reason, our blood sugar level isn’t usually top-of-mind—and it should be.

“Chronic uncontrolled blood sugar is very hard on nearly every organ in the body,” says Queen Aimuyo, a family nurse practitioner with USMD Denton North Clinic. It can damage the heart, the eyes and kidneys. It can lead to diabetes—the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart failure and stroke.”

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that interferes with the way our bodies use digested food. With diabetes, the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin—or any insulin at all. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use sugar (glucose) for energy, and store extra sugar in muscle, fat and liver cells. Without insulin, sugar cannot get into our cells where it’s needed. Instead stays in the blood and circulates throughout the body. This is bad.

“Left uncontrolled, diabetes not only triggers other chronic conditions, it makes it very difficult for the body to heal,” says nurse practitioner Aimuyo. “Diabetes causes inflammation in your arteries so your organs receive less blood than they need to stay healthy. Poor circulation to the limbs can lead to neuropathy and gangrene—and sometimes diabetics may have to have a limb amputated as a result.”

Know your blood sugar levels.

How do you know if you have high blood sugar (also known as blood glucose)? Two simple blood tests provide answers. After fasting overnight, your care provider will draw a sample of blood for a fasting blood sugar test. The results will reveal where your blood sugar falls.

  • Normal blood sugar is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
  • Insulin resistant (also known as pre-diabetes) is 100 to 125 mg/dL.
  • Diabetes is 126 mg/dL or higher on two separate tests.

“We also like to check an individual’s blood sugar by testing their hemoglobin A1C level,” says Aimuyo. “For it, we draw blood once every three months.”

  • Normal A1C level is below 5.7 percent.
  • Insulin resistant (also known as pre-diabetes) falls between 5.7 and 6.4 percent
  • Diabetes is 6.5 percent or higher on two separate occasions

Take steps to improve your blood sugar levels.

Every day, nurse practitioner Aimuyo works closely with both pre-diabetic and diabetic patients to help them control their blood sugar. “I try to create a compassionate environment that is nonjudgmental,” she says. “There has to be trust so they feel they can come and talk to me. I’m here to help.”

Aimuyo begins by counseling her patients to focus on the things they can control—their weight, diet and exercise.

“I’m a big believer in patient education because it helps people succeed,” she says. “The right kind of diet will bring down blood sugar levels to either prevent a patient from going into full-blown diabetes or to better manage their condition if they already have type 2 diabetes.”

In both cases, the important rule of thumb is to avoid eating concentrated sweets and high carbohydrate foods.

Carbohydrates and the diabetes connection.

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel—and because they are easily converted into sugar, they affect your blood sugar more than any other nutrient. All kinds of foods contain carbohydrates. Fruits, non-starchy vegetables, milk and un-sweetened yogurt are usually lower in carbohydrates and healthier. Others foods—breads, cereals, starchy vegetables (potatoes and corn), candy, cakes and cookies—contain more carbohydrates. Eating too much of these types of carbs can contribute to pre-diabetes and diabetes. In contrast, protein contains very few carbs.

Ask your care provider approximately how many grams of carbohydrates you should be eating per day based on your size, health and blood sugar level. Learn how many grams of carbohydrates are contained in foods so you can track how many you eat throughout the day. “I encourage my patients to keep a food diary. It really helps them see how many carbs they’re eating each day and make adjustments,” Aimuyo says.

Also, try to spread your carbs out throughout the day. This will help you keep your blood sugar stable. If you have trouble figuring out what’s the right ratio of carbs for each meal, try the simple MyPlate method. It balances vegetables, fruit, protein and carbohydrate without measuring food or counting calories.

“Eating right is often the hardest part for patients,” Aimuyo admits. “I’ll have patients tell me, ‘Oh, I love tortillas,’ or ‘I love soda,’ but too much of those foods are bad if you’re trying to prevent or control diabetes.”

Exercise burns excess sugar, fat and weight.

Along with diet, exercise plays an important role in maintaining a healthy weight. “There is a definite connection between obesity and diabetes,” says Aimyou.  “In our country, so many people are overweight and it’s fueling diabetes. More than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 86 million adults have pre-diabetes. So, exercise is very important. At least thirty minutes a day is best. Walking for 30 minutes is a good choice, but swimming, cycling, running or tennis are also good. It really depends on your health and physical capabilities.”

Daily blood sugar monitoring tracks your progress.

While your care provider will keep regular tabs on your blood sugar (usually every two or six months depending on how well controlled it is), Aimuyo encourages her patients to keep a blood sugar log.

“I have them take their blood sugar reading several times a day, every day,” she explains. “It’s important to check blood sugar an hour before food, two hours after eating, and at bedtime. Before eating, blood sugar level should be below 100 mg/dl, two hours after eating it should be less than 140 mg/dl. Keeping a food diary also helps patients see how the various foods they eat affect their blood sugar.”

While most individuals will need prescription medication to manage their diabetes, taking medication does not eliminate the need to eat right and exercise. That’s why Aimuyo likes to get a patient’s family involved. “When it comes to lifestyle changes like diet, patients have a better chance of success if everyone in the house is eating well,” she says.

Aimuyo loves it when her patients embrace the lifestyle changes and see their blood sugar level improve.

“It’s very rewarding because they’re motivated to continue,” she says. “We’re working together for the common good. Our goal is to make the patient healthy.”

Do you need help managing your pre-diabetes or diabetes? Family nurse practitioner Queen Aimuyo is here for you. Call 940-387-8763 to schedule an appointment.

Queen Aimuyo, FNP-C, USMD Denton North Clinic, on diabetes and blood sugar

Queen Aimuyo, FNP-C, USMD Denton North Clinic