To tackle diabetes, discover what moves us

Consequences of diabetes: Cutting a slip of paper with I can't written on it

Just do it. Oh, if it was only that simple.

What is the secret to motivating a person to change his behavior? To break decades-long habits that set a course toward chronic disease? That is the billion-dollar question when it comes to diabetes in America.

Untreated, diabetes can lead to:

  • Damaged nerve endings that often show up in the feet. You will lose feeling in your feet which makes it harder to walk and increases your risk of falling on uneven ground.
  • Vascular disease as the high blood sugar contributes to a build-up of plaque in the arteries. This can cause heart disease or stroke. Because blood flow throughout the body is weakened, a person can have wounds that don’t heal well. This can lead to severe infection. When a wound on the foot is severe, a person could lose that foot.
  • Kidney damage that will require dialysis.
  • Blindness due to damaged nerves.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for most diabetes cases in the country, and the consequences listed above can be devastating.

Banner Health Clinic family medicine specialist Marc Nielsen, DO, said type 2 diabetes is a disease of lifestyle – people putting the wrong food or too much food in their mouths, drinking alcohol in excess and not getting enough physical activity.

Dr. Nielsen shared what he considers the most difficult part of treating people with diabetes: Helping them realize there are real consequences when they don’t manage the disease and change their lifestyle. It’s hard to get people to change their lifestyle.

I think society shies away from stressing the realities of disease. People argue that those are scare tactics used to frighten someone into changing behaviors. Unfortunately, the risks of the disease are scary.

However, reality is that the risks can be avoided. Dr. Nielsen provides education and helps connect patients with experts in nutrition and exercise to teach patients about better lifestyle choices.

In 2012, 29.1 million people had diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association. That amounted to $322 billion in medical care and lost productivity when people couldn’t work. On top of this is the the impact on a person’s quality of life when the disease isn’t managed well.

Like any choice, people weigh the costs against the benefits. Health care professionals can provide access to accurate information and tools that help prevent or treat diabetes. While it’s never easy to make lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and regular exercise, it does indeed take the mentality to “just do it!” Patients can weigh the costs and benefits of choosing healthy options, which may prove all the motivation they need to move their life in a healthy direction.

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