We just finished Diabetes awareness month in November…and it is fitting that the NJ Society of Optometric Physicians offered a fabulous continuing education course on this subject. (shout out to my former colleagues in the office and on the board of NJSOP!) Yes, I made the six hour drive up with the threat of a Nor’easter looming because this is a topic I am passionate about. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness. There are good means to manage it but the best prevention of diabetic retinopathy is tight control of the systemic disease.
I will be blogging on Diabetes throughout the year, not just November, because it is an epidemic yet it can be managed with some lifestyle changes. Obesity is a huge risk factor for this disease. Genetics play a role as well but I want to emphasize the things we can all do something about. Speak to your primary care physician about this and follow his or her instructions regarding your medications as well starting a new exercise or diet plan.
It is important to know your A1c level. I have asked several patients what their A1c level is and they don’t even know what it is- much less what is their level. Most everyone is aware of the blood sugar level that fluctuates during the day. But the A1c gives an idea of how much sugar is circulating in general. This is a new standard in treating diabetes and should be less than 7 for adults. So ask your doctor what your level is. This is important to know before you alter your lifestyle so you can monitor changes.
Now you’ve heard it before and I will say it again. Changing your diet and increasing your exercise are the most important things you can do to improve your sugar levels. Cut the carbs/calories and increase your activity level to 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, 3x per week; start a walking program or just dance around the house-it doesn’t matter what you do–just move! Studies have shown that even 10 minutes of exercise can be helpful, you can break it up into 3 sessions dring the day if you like. You can start with one 10 minute session and add on as you get used to working out. Again, tell your doctor that you are starting a new diet and exercise program before you begin.
So up off the couch now. We will talk about this more later…..