The Doctor Is In: Understanding and Managing Diabetes

By Cassandra Patterson, MD
Peterson & Plante Internal Medicine Associates, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice

In South Carolina, one in eight adults has diabetes. This rate is the seventh highest in the United States. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are also obese.

People who are overweight are not able to process high levels of carbohydrates. That leads to higher levels of sugar in the blood and stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin, a hormone that allows your body to use sugar for energy. Eventually, stress on the pancreas slows down insulin production.

Diabetes can create a domino effect of complications. High sugar levels in the blood damage small blood vessels and nerves, leading to a risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, leg pain and a loss of sensation in the feet. High sugar levels can also make healing from infections difficult.

If someone has type 2 diabetes, he or she should avoid sweetened drinks, sweets, breads, pastas and white rice. Foods that are good for diabetics are fruit, vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, beans and low-fat dairy.

Dr. Cassandra Patterson

Researchers have been working to find the best ways to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, but they haven’t found a cure yet. Newer medications for diabetes have focused on using the body’s own abilities to process excess sugars.  

As research continues, doctors emphasize the importance of diet and exercise. It’s important to work healthy eating and fitness into your daily routine. The results will dramatically improve your life.
 
Peterson & Plante Internal Medicine Associates educates patients at risk for type 2 diabetes about lifestyle changes that promote prevention. For patients with diabetes, these clinicians give patients the tools they will need to manage their illness and prevent complications.

Peterson and Plante Internal Medicine Associates

South Carolina’s First Diabetic Food Pantry

Lexington Medical Center, Harvest Hope Food Bank and the American Diabetes Association are working together to establish the first diabetic food pantry in South Carolina. Scheduled to open July 1, the D2 & Me Diabetic Food Pantry will allow community members in need with diabetes to pick up special boxes of healthy staple foods and fresh produce that are diabetic friendly.

The idea for the diabetic food pantry came from Natalie Copeland, a Lexington Medical Center employee who has type 2 diabetes and created a health and wellness group called “D2 & Me” for diabetics in the Midlands.

Natalie Copeland

“I learned a lot of people who have diabetes use a food pantry. Sometimes, the food they receive is heavy on carbohydrates. The diabetic food pantry will help to ensure that they receive a nutritional balance of food that will help them manage their diabetes well,” said Copeland.

Recipients at the diabetic food pantry will get boxes that include peanut butter, brown rice, dry pinto beans, oats, Corn Flakes cereal, milk, mandarin oranges, unsweetened applesauce, whole wheat spaghetti noodles, green beans, tomatoes, carrots and chicken. They will also receive a packet with recipes, a brochure about diabetes from the American Diabetes Association, and a schedule of D2 & Me meetings.

“It has always been part of Harvest Hope’s mission to provide quality food for those in need,” said Denise Holland, CEO of Harvest Hope Food Bank. “We are thrilled to be working with Lexington Medical Center and our community partners to help provide for those who are facing the double struggle of diabetes and hunger.”
 
A Lexington Medical Center Foundation grant is providing the first boxes of food for the diabetic food pantry. Community members who donate to Harvest Hope Food Bank are encouraged to bring foods on the diabetic list. There are also opportunities for corporate sponsorships. For information on donations, visit HarvestHope.org or call the Columbia office at (803) 254 – 4432.

“A healthy diet is an important factor in managing diabetes. The American Diabetes Association is pleased to partner with Lexington Medical Center and Harvest Hope to provide resources in support of the diabetic food pantry in South Carolina,” said John Douglas, manager of Community Health Strategies with the American Diabetes Association in Columbia.
 
For now, the program is working with three pilot pantries where community members will pick up the diabetic food boxes: Church of Christ Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia; Sharing God’s Love in Irmo; and Mission of Hope in Cayce. People who are interested in receiving the boxes should contact Harvest Hope’s Columbia office at (803) 254 – 4432.

Eventually, organizers would like to expand the program to all Harvest Hope Food Bank agencies in South Carolina.

Diabetes in South Carolina
In South Carolina, one in eight adults has diabetes. This rate is the seventh highest in the United States. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are also obese.

Diabetes can create a domino effect of complications. High sugar levels in the blood damage small blood vessels and nerves, leading to a risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, leg pain and a loss of sensation in the feet. High sugar levels can also make healing from infections difficult.

If someone has type 2 diabetes, he or she should avoid sweetened drinks, sweets, breads, pastas and white race. Foods that are good for diabetics include fruit, vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, beans and low-fat dairy.

Father’s Heart Attack Is A Wake-up Call

In March, things turned upside down for Paul Shealy.

It was 4:30 a.m., and he was wide awake. Something about his heart just wasn’t right.

After a few regular beats, his heart felt like it paused–and then it began beating really hard, “like it was trying to start over,” Paul said. “I didn’t feel pain, and I wasn’t nervous, but I knew it was wrong.”

Paul Shealy, his wife Heather and their three children: Connor; 13; Braydon, 11; and Trisleigh, 7.

Paul walked around his house and got a drink of water, trying to work it out. After about 30 minutes, he woke up his wife and told her they should call an ambulance.

Paul was just 42 years old. He’s married to his high school sweetheart and they have three young children.

Paul had no family history of heart disease. But just a few months earlier, he had consulted with a doctor who urged him to quit using smokeless tobacco and to start taking medicine to control his high blood pressure. Paul took the medicine—at first.

“The side effects made me feel awful,” he said. “I’d go back to the doctor to have the medication adjusted, but after awhile I felt like I couldn’t go to the doctor again and say, ‘I need you to fix this medicine.’”

Paul did stop using smokeless tobacco, thinking that would be enough to improve his blood pressure.

After several check ups, Paul stopped seeing the doctor and stopped taking the medicine. He thought he had done enough to improve his blood pressure by quitting smokeless tobacco.

Paul isn’t alone. About one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure – also called hypertension — can damage the heart and arteries. Nearly half of Americans with high blood pressure don’t have it under control.

Dr. Mitchell Jacocks

“Unfortunately, hypertension doesn’t cause symptoms, and sometimes the treatment can produce side effects and make patients question whether it’s worthwhile to take the medication they’re prescribed to control it,” said Mitchell W. Jacocks, MD, of Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

“Paul felt fine, and at his age, he probably felt like ‘nothing can happen to me.’ It’s a common misconception and unfortunately, can lead to dire consequences,” Dr. Jacocks said.

When Paul arrived at Lexington Medical Center’s Emergency department, clinicians confirmed his blood pressure was very high. Medication failed to bring his blood pressure under control, so clinicians admitted him to the hospital where tests confirmed that one of Paul’s arteries was seriously blocked. In the cardiac catheterization lab, doctors with
Lexington Cardiology inserted a stent in the artery to restore the normal flow of blood. Paul stayed in the hospital for five days.

Today, Paul takes a new blood pressure medicine and follows up with Dr. Jacocks regularly.

According to Dr. Jacocks, Paul is now a model patient. “There are few things that motivate a person like a cardiac event. Sometimes it’s the wakeup call people need to get them to take care of themselves,” said Dr. Jacocks.

Looking back, Paul recognizes the warning signs he ignored—when climbing a flight of stairs seemed to take his breath away, or when his wife noticed he was more tired, and how his breathing at night wasn’t right.

Dr. Jacocks said patients often ignore symptoms or put off treatment that could save their lives. “It’s important to listen to your loved ones,” he said. “They may notice something that you may not notice or be denying that could be signs of potential problems.”

“I completely learned my lesson,” Paul said. “It’s my responsibility, as a father, to be here. Now I take responsibility for my own health.”