Once while listening to a lecture on diabetes by a Cleveland Clinic endocrinologist I heard a statement that shaped my career. Dr. Adi Mehta said he doesn’t worry about those people dealing with diabetes with extremely high A1c numbers; he worries about those with levels just above normal limits.
An A1c value is an average of the amount of sugar in the blood during the past three months. Values between 4.3 and 5.8 are considered within normal limits.
People with A1c numbers above 9.0 most likely are already dealing with short-term and long-term complications. Thirst, frequent urination, dry skin, hunger, headaches and blurry vision are just a few of the potential short-term symptoms related to high blood sugar. Long-term complications affect a person from head to toe.
Nagging and life threatening complications send a patient to the doctor’s office. Once under the assessment of a health professional, the diabetes diagnosis can be addressed. Measures and medications are prescribed to lower the A1c level and reduce complications.
But those with A1c values between 6 to 9 may not feel anything is wrong. Some people have no idea their blood sugar levels are becoming dangerously high. These are the patients that concern Dr. Mehta.
When there is more sugar in the blood, necessary small changes begin. Nerves are damaged. Blood vessels become inflamed. The ability to fight an infection is reduced.
Many of these patients hear health professionals tell them that they have "a touch of sugar" or that they are borderline diabetic. Doctors often warn with a kind and gentle reminder to pay attention and eat in moderation.
A patient may hear the words but since their life is not directly affected by life threatening body changes, denial is the usual response. Many people in denial know or are related to someone who has already dealt with the results of ignoring this disease. Fear feeds denial.
Diabetes is a serious disease. Believing that a slightly high A1c is not a big deal can get a person into big trouble. An A1c between 6 and 9 may not sound very life threatening but damage to vital organs has begun. It is time for action, not denial.
A diabetes diagnosis is serious, but it can be managed to minimize complications. People with diabetes need to find a healthy weight and stick to it, make healthy food choices, move their bodies more every day, minimize emotional stress; relax more and take their medicine even when they feel good. It’s a lot to do. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!
Dr. Mehta’s words challenged me to spread the word; educate people dealing with a slightly elevated A1c; motivate people to act early to improve the quality of life. When blood sugar levels are close to normal, people have more energy; are less tired and thirsty; heal better; and have less infections.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Be aware and take action.
Bobbie Randall is a Certified Diabetes Educator, Registered, Licensed Dietitian. She supervises a Diabetes Self-Management Training Program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital, Orrville, OH. Contact her email@example.com 330-684-4776