Diabetes -The Medical Perspective
People who have diabetes are more likely to develop an eye
condition called “retinopathy.” Retinopathy is
damage to the blood vessels in the eyes. Damage to these blood
vessels can result in low vision or even blindness if left
The National Eye Institute urges everyone with diabetes
to have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
For this test, the doctor will place drops in the eyes to
dilate the pupils. This lets the doctor look inside the eyes
more easily. There should be no pain, but sometimes the drops
sting slightly. After having your eyes dilated, you must be
careful to avoid bright sun until your eyes are not dilated
any longer. Often your doctor will give you disposable sunglasses
if you don’t have your own.
Your doctor or eye care professional can tell if you have
any signs of diabetic retinopathy. Ask your doctor what tests
he is performing and what the results are. Ask if you should
be watchful of any particular symptoms, and what to do if
you notice them.
If you don’t understand what your eye doctor tells
you, ask for written information about your tests, your results,
and what you can expect in the future. If you still have trouble
understanding your eye doctor’s answers, ask where you
can go for more information, or take the written information
to your nurse or your general doctor.
Studies have shown that keeping blood glucose in control
can delay retinopathy, or slow the progression of retinopathy
if it is already present.
For additional information visit:
Diabetes and Food
Using food labels to count carbohydrates is becoming more
popular. What do you do with fiber? The American Diabetes
Association (ADA) states that “The grams of sugar and
fiber are counted as part of the grams of total carbohydrate.
If a food has 5 grams or more fiber in a serving, subtract
the fiber grams from the total grams of carbohydrate for a
more accurate estimate of the carbohydrate content.”
This recommendation is made because fiber is not digested
or absorbed to the same extent that simple carbohydrates are.
Studies have shown that foods high in fiber, such as fruits,
vegetables, peas, beans, and whole-grain breads and cereals
may help lower blood glucose.
However, it seems that a person must eat much more fiber
than the average American now consumes to get this benefit.
The average American eats less than 11 grams of fiber each
day. The recommendation for all Americans is 20 to 35 grams
per day. Researchers asked people to eat 50 grams of fiber
each day in order to see an effect on blood glucose! While
it seems clear that adding some fruits, vegetables, and whole
grains into your diet will be healthful, to really see an
effect on your blood glucose, the fiber in your diet must
be quite high.
Talk to your dietitian or nutritionist about the fiber in
your diet, and visit www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/diabetes/food.html.
Read the Nutrition Facts on labels. Some higher fiber foods
will have a health claim on the front of the label. To be
able to make such a claim the food must also be a “low
fat food.” If the food says “high fiber,”
it must have 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. If the
label claims the food is a “good source of fiber,”
the food must have 2.5 to 4.9 grams of fiber per serving.
And, if the label says “more or added fiber” the
food must have at least 2.5 grams more fiber than a similar
food without added fiber.
Exercise as a Part of Living
With the sunny, warm weather it may be the right time to
consider swimming as part of your exercise routine. Unlike
some other sports, swimming keeps you moving for a length
of time, rather than bursts of energy followed by rest. This
is important for cardiovascular (heart) fitness. Swimming
is also a whole body exercise that uses both upper and lower
body muscles at the same time.
When you are swimming, your body is supported by water so
you are less likely to hurt yourself. If you are unsure of
your swimming abilities, use a kick board or flotation device.
Swimming is fun, but it should be more than splashing in
the water or standing in water to cool off. Have a goal –
maybe 10 minutes of swimming, 3 times a week. Know what you
can or cannot do, and do not over-do at the beginning. Remember
to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program,
especially if you have any heart or circulatory condition.
Recipes to Try
Stuffed Green Peppers (6 servings)
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped with green chilies, drained
1 can (15.5 oz.) red kidney beans, drained
3 large green peppers
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 tbsp. grated cheddar cheese
- Brown ground beef in medium saucepan. Add onions and
cook until tender, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in red kidney beans, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes;
heat to boiling. Reduce to low heat; simmer to blend flavors,
about 10 minutes.
- Wash green peppers and cut in half lengthwise. Remove
- Place green peppers cut side up in large skillet. Add
about ½ inch water. Heat to boiling; cover and reduce
heat. Simmer about 5 minutes until crisp tender.
- Remove peppers from water and drain on towel. Place cut
side up on serving plate, and fill with ground meat/kidney
bean/tomato mixture. Top with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.
Per serving: 247 calories, 17 grams protein, 21 grams
carbohydrate, 42 mg cholesterol, 11 grams total fat, 40 %
calories from fat, 7 grams fiber
Almond Cranberry Muffins (18 muffins)
3 cups flour
1/3 cup skim milk
1/2 cup Splenda®
1/4 cup oil
2 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. almond extract
1 teas. baking soda
1/4 teas. salt
1 cup dried cranberries
16 oz. reduced fat sour cream
1/4 cup slivered almonds
- Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and flour muffin pans,
or use paper liners.
- Mix flour, Splenda®, baking powder, baking soda,
and salt. In a separate bowl mix sour cream, milk, oil,
extract, and eggs until blended.
- Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until just
moistened. Stir in cranberries and almonds.
- Bake for 30 minutes until tops slightly browned.
Per serving: 182 calories, 4 grams protein, 33 mg cholesterol,
24 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams total fat, 38 % calories from
fat, 1 gram fiber
Managing your diabetes takes a lot of work: watching your
diet, exercising, and sometimes taking oral medications or
insulin. Sometimes people seek alternative treatments to keep
their blood glucose in control. These may seem more “natural”
or easier, or may have testimonials that people are cured
or their blood glucose levels are no longer a problem.
Herbal treatment for high blood glucose levels is gaining
in popularity. Claims for herbal treatments should be viewed
with caution. None of the herbs commonly cited to lower blood
glucose have been adequately studied to know their real effects,
not only on blood glucose but on other body systems as well.
Animal studies are a start, but results can’t be transferred
to humans – additional human studies need to be conducted.
A concern with any supplement is true with “natural”
herbal treatments as well – they are unregulated. This
means you can’t be sure that what you are buying contains
the ingredients its label promises, or that it is in the product
in the amounts that the labels says, or that it was made safely
and contains no harmful ingredients.
People who take herbal treatments may say they feel better
– and that’s good. However, if you are taking
herbal treatments, make sure you continue to check your blood
glucose level. Feeling good doesn’t equal a normal blood
glucose level! Talk to your doctor about the herbals you are
taking and ask if they may interact with other medication
you are taking or may interfere with any other medical test(s)
you may need.
Betty Crocker and the International Diabetes Center have
teamed up to create Betty Crocker's Diabetes Cookbook:
Everyday Meals, Easy as 1-2-3. The cookbook
contains 140 recipes in 256 pages; (February 15, 2003).
Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc has a webpage that contains
general information about diabetes; All About Diabetes; an
“ask a certified diabetes educator” link; help
for tracking blood glucose levels; chat rooms; and a newsletter.
Two magazines for the general public concerning “how
to’s” for those with diabetes are Diabetes
Forecast by the American Diabetes Association ($40 cover
price/ $21 through Amazon.com 12issues/yr) and Diabetes
Self-Management by R.A. Rapaport Publishing, Inc ($24
cover price; $12.97 through Amazon.com
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