November is National Diabetes Month and the Western Diabetes Institute joins the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) in raising awareness about the importance of setting goals and making a plan to prevent type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related complications.

Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans and an estimated 79 million people are at risk for developing the disease.

The main risk factors for type 2 diabetes are family history, being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, said Rucha Mehta, MD, FACP, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine. Of these, the most important risk factor you can control is body weight.

“The best way to lose weight is through lifestyle changes – changing what and how much you eat and being more physically active,” Mehta said. “Diabetes also increases your risk of eye disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and particularly heart disease and strokes. Positive lifestyle changes that produce weight loss will decrease your risk of these conditions. In addition, weight loss can help improve other health conditions related to being overweight, including high blood pressure. Finally, eating better and getting more exercise will simply help you feel better.”

When making changes in your diet, it’s important not only to decrease total calories, but to choose foods that are healthy, that taste good, and that are practical to eat every day. Eat more green, leafy vegetables, different seasonal fruits such as oranges and blueberries, nuts such as almonds, pistachios and walnuts, salmon, chicken breast, whole wheat bread and seasonal vegetables. Avoid frying and try more grilling and baking.

“Similarly, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery,” Mehta said. “With exercise, it’s best to start by doing just a little bit each day, and gradually increase the amount and intensity over time.”

The Western Diabetes Institute (WDI) invites the community to visit the Patient Care Center at Western University of Health Sciences to make a plan to prevent diabetes and its complications.

The Western Diabetes Institute (WDI) is an interdisciplinary group of board-certified, university-trained providers – pharmacists, podiatrists, endocrinologists, nephrologists, cardiologists, physical therapists, optometrists, dentists as well as a care coordinator (nurse practitioner).

Some of the complications in diabetic patients include kidney disease, eye disease, nerve disease, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and dental disease. Such a complicated disease requires multiple specialists.

Diabetics are more prone to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections than healthy individuals, said David Lazarchik, DMD, College of Dental Medicine Assistant Dean for Patient Care and Clinical Education. Diabetics also demonstrate an increased incidence of dental decay, periodontal (gum) disease, oral abscesses, and delayed healing after oral surgical procedures.

“Dentists play a role in the overall management of diabetes by referring suspected diabetics for medical evaluation,” Lazarchik said. “In addition, gum disease and dental infections may complicate control of blood glucose levels, complicating medical management of the disease. Thus dental infection must be aggressively treated in these patients. Regular visits to the dentist help maintain a healthy oral cavity and minimize the possibility of diabetic complications.”

Diabetes can affect the eyes and vision in many different ways. It may lead to fluctuations in vision, dry eyes, early development of cataracts, development of glaucoma, temporary paralysis of the muscles controlling eye movement and thereby causing double vision, said Raymond R. Maeda, OD, FAAO, Chief of Staff – Eye Care Center.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the adult age population but often there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. For this reason, it is critical that all individuals with diabetes have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year performed by their optometrist.

“An optometrist performs a comprehensive exam of a patient’s visual system and eye health,” Maeda said. “It is important for diabetic patients to have yearly eye exams to ensure that they are not experiencing any complications related to their diabetes. A majority of the complications will cause symptoms to a varying degree, but there are times when the patient may not be experiencing any symptoms yet damage from diabetes is occurring.”

Diabetic patients are advised to have their feet examined by a podiatrist regularly because of the very high complication rate that directly impacts the foot, said Jonathan Labovitz, DPM, FACFAS, College of Podiatric Medicine Associate Professor and Department Chair, Medicine, Surgery and Biomechanics, Medical Director, Foot & Ankle Center.

“Diabetes is the second leading cause of lower extremity amputations in the United States with a five-year mortality rate of around 50 percent for ulcers that form on the foot,” he said. “This is a higher mortality than breast cancer and colon cancer. The ulcers form in almost 20 percent of diabetics during their lifetime and are usually directly impacted by numbness, poor circulation, and/or changes in the foot structure. The podiatrists at the Foot & Ankle Center have specialized training in saving limbs through early and the highest quality care.”

“WesternU is well-poised to handle the diabetic patient given the availability of diabetic subspecialty care all in one location, said COMP Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine Airani Sathananthan, MD. “The theme of National Diabetes Month, ‘Make a Plan to Prevent Diabetes and its Complications,’ certainly highlights and mirrors what we feel is an important part of patient care.”

To learn more about making a plan to prevent type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related complications, visit www.YourDiabetesInfo.org or call 1-888-693-NDEP (6337); TTY: 1-866-569-1162.

To contact the Western Diabetes Institute, call 909-706-3779 or visit http://wdi.westernu.edu/index.html

For more information about the Patient Care Center, click here.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.