Years ago, I had a gentleman come into my office not feeling well. He couldn’t figure out what was going on, but he knew something was wrong and couldn’t explain his severe fatigue. After running some blood tests it was determined he had type 2 diabetes and his sugar levels were very elevated. Talking further with him, he mentioned he had been seeing another provider years ago and was told he had prediabetes but didn’t think he needed to do anything else about it. I was saddened to hear this and wondered if somehow the healthcare system had failed him. We discussed how it wasn’t all of a sudden that he now had type 2 diabetes but that generally type 2 diabetes slowly develops over the years. He expressed many concerns about how to treat his diabetes, whether to use medications or not and the cost of treatment. Slowly we developed a treatment plan and over the next couple of years, he was able to manage his diabetes to the point where he has been able to stop all his diabetes medications.
While this example is possible, it is generally an exception to the norm. Diabetes is complex and each person is unique in the approach, however, working with this gentleman I learned some valuable lessons that can be applied even if one does not have diabetes.
Diabetes needs to be looked at as a continuum. There are many risk factors for developing diabetes. Some of these risk factors such as diet, being overweight, and inactivity can be modified to delay or even prevent diabetes. Therefore, early detection and education can be very important. More importantly, developing healthy lifestyle choices early on can have a significant impact on one’s health.
Regular office visits with a healthcare provider are important. This gentleman expressed concerns over the cost of healthcare. We discussed how studies show that regular follow up visits can help decrease or even prevent complications from diabetes. He realized that by preventing the complications from occurring, he may in fact decrease costs, prevent future hospital stays, and see the improved overall quality of life that he desired.
This gentleman expressed the desire to limit medications, especially expensive ones. There are many wonderful diabetes medications, but some of them are very expensive. We discussed the importance of medications when treating diabetes, but set goals to work on other areas in addition to medications. We set goals for weight loss, increasing activity levels, and healthier nutrition choices. We found that creating small goals at first was easier for him to keep focus, find successes, and build upon.
He started simply by cutting out sugary drinks, eating smaller portion sizes, and limiting certain food choices to special occasions. We set small exercise goals such as standing more during the day and walking after eating dinner instead of sitting down to watch television.
I am passionate about helping to prevent illness whenever possible. In some situations, this may not be possible, but healthy lifestyle choices are important in the prevention of disease, especially diabetes.
Mike Dahl, PA-C
Canyon View Family Medicine