The month of April is been designated Defeat Diabetes Month. This year, with most of us focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially important to remember how dangerous diabetes can be. Chronic conditions like diabetes, can make people more vulnerable to infections, like COVID-19.
According to the American Diabetes Association, one in ten Americans has diabetes — and 21% of them remain undiagnosed. Plus 1.5 million new cases are diagnosed each year in this country. Diabetes raises the risk of multiple other medical problems, including heart disease, stroke, poor circulation, numbness and leg pain, and kidney and eye disease. Diabetes is also an independent risk factor for worse outcomes if you become infected with COVID-19. That's why effective treatment and lifelong education are so important.
For Enrique Deleon, 50, learning he had type 2 diabetes and getting his blood sugar under control saved his life. Years of eating foods rich in fat and sugar and low in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins caught up with him in August 2020, when he began feeling sluggish. His vision was blurry, he had an intense thirst for sweet drinks, and he was urinating a lot. One night he felt so unwell he called his ex-wife, who took him to the Emergency Room at Hackensack University Medical Center. He remembers seeing the hospital entrance that Sunday evening and then passed out for two days.
When he woke up the following Tuesday morning, he learned from his doctors that his blood sugar when he arrived was 1400 mg/dL — ten times the maximum healthy level of 140 mg/dL . During his three-day hospital stay, his care team worked to get his blood sugar under control with medication and insulin, and they created a customized plan for him to achieve and maintain better health. That included periodic visits with his diabetes physician, endocrinologist Dr. ShrutiPandiri, and the staff of the hospital's MOLLY Diabetes Education/Management Center for Adults and Children. Sessions with a nutritionist taught Enrique how to make better dietary choices. He also learned ways to incorporate more exercise into his day. "They opened my eyes. Before that, I was a blind man," asserted Enrique, a truck driver who lives in North Bergen, New Jersey.
Today he eats much smaller food portions and opts for oatmeal with fruit rather than bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches, salads and lean meats rather than fried foods, and water over sweet drinks. He tries to fit in extra steps around his truck while waiting for a customer and takes long weekend walks with his dog. He has lost over 30 pounds (20 in the first month alone) and his A1C (a measure of longer-term blood sugar control) has dropped from more than 13% to 6.0% since his hospital admission. (A healthy level is under 5.7%.)
"I feel like a 20-year-old again," said Enrique, who now tries to inspire others by spreading the word about good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. "I owe the team at Hackensack University Medical Center my life." Once on several diabetes medications, he now takes just one injectable drug which helps his body release the insulin it's already making. Also essential to his progress is a continuous glucose monitoring system that features a sensor he inserts and leaves in his skin; it provides regular glucose readings via an app, without the inconvenience and discomfort of multiple daily finger pricks.
The same glucose monitoring system also made all the difference for Camille Taylor, 51, a medical practice administrator who lives in Garfield, New Jersey. Diagnosed nearly 30 years ago with type 2 diabetes after developing gestational (pregnancy-related) diabetes, she knows all too well how difficult it is to manage the disease. After years of failing to get her blood sugar under control, she turned to the team at Hackensack University Medical Center in spring 2020. "I made up my mind that it was time to get it together," she noted. Colette Knight, MD, chair of the Inserra Family Diabetes Institute and director of the hospital's endocrinology division, got to know Camille's history and preferences — for example, she didn't like taking insulin because it made her gain weight — and created a personalized plan of care that worked for her. "I hadn't had in-range glucose numbers in years. I was so happy!" said Camille.
Her plan included newer diabetes medications and better ways to use insulin, along with dietary guidance such as eating multiple smaller meals. The continuous glucose monitor made it easier for her to track and respond to her blood sugar levels. "It was life changing for me. I can check glucose anytime throughout the day. It keeps me conscious of how what I eat affects my body," she explained.
She is grateful to Dr. Knight and her care team for helping her achieve better health, including improvements in her vision and easing of the nerve discomfort she has had in her legs. She's making better food choices and looking for ways to add more movement to her day. The education she has received has been key. "The more you know about your disease, the better off you will be," Camille concluded. "I knew it was time to make these changes because I wanted to feel better and live a long time."
Nationally Recognized Diabetes Care and Education
The MOLLY Diabetes Education/Management Center for Adults and Children at Hackensack University Medical Center provides access to the most up-to-date, effective methods of diabetes management. The goal is to help people become educated and motivated partners in managing their diabetes. The MOLLY Diabetes Center received prestigious American Diabetes Association Recognition for excellence in diabetes self-management education & support.
Said Dr. Knight, "We understand that diabetes is a challenging disease to manage and that care is not once-size-fits-all. We work with each patient to personalize treatment and education to help them live their best lives with diabetes."
The MOLLY Diabetes Center is located at 87 NJ-17, Maywood, NJ 07607. For more information or to make an appointment, call 551-996-3010.
Thank you for your consideration,
PR Manager, Hackensack University Medical Center