Understanding Type 1 Diabetes

By Elizabeth Smoots, MD

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas makes little or no insulin. The hormone insulin is needed to move glucose into body cells where it can be burned for energy. But if this does not happen normally, type 1 diabetes can result. It usually begins in childhood, though adults can sometimes develop this autoimmune disorder.

The most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes: increased thirst, frequent urination, severe hunger, unexpected weight loss and fatigue. Weakness, irritability, mood changes and blurred vision can also occur. Bedwetting may begin in children who usually do not wet the bed.

The cause? In type 1 diabetes the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen that helps convert food into fuel. Viruses or environmental factors can trigger the condition. It’s more likely to occur in people with certain genes or a family history (parent or sibling) of the disease.

See your health care provider right away if you develop symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Treatment usually involves monitoring glucose levels, taking insulin and following a supportive eating and exercise plan.

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Calming Techniques

Ever felt nervous about a work project, a doctor appointment or being late for a meeting? Everyone feels anxious sometimes and the result can be headaches, stomach upset, a racing heartbeat or feeling miserably tense. At times like this, you want to calm down — but how?

For ongoing anxiety, learning and practicing yoga and meditation can help. There are also calming techniques to soothe anxious feelings while you’re on the go. No matter how much or little time they require, these stress-soothing strategies can produce a similar effect. They spark the body’s natural relaxation response, slowing breathing and heart rate, controlling blood pressure and promoting a sense of well-being.

Tips for going from frazzled to calm: 

  • Focus on your breathing. Take long, deep breaths, inhaling into your abdomen. Exhale slowly and repeat several times.
  • Silently repeat a calming phrase. Some people use a short prayer, mantra, or a soothing phrase such as “All is well” or “I am fine.”
  • Mentally scan your body. While anxiously waiting for a meeting, breathe slowly as you focus on one part of your body at a time. Consciously relax your muscles, mentally releasing any tension you feel there.
  • Tell yourself, “I can do this.” 
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Carbs: The Lowdown

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

In the world of nutrition, sometimes carbohydrates get a bad rap. The negativity may be due to misinformation because so many foods contain carbs, and some are healthier than others. So let’s separate fact from fiction and see how you can include carbs in your diet beneficially.

Choose these: Vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils and 100% whole grains are nutritious foods. Research links this combination of high-carb foods to prevention of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. These foods contain complex carbs and fiber that satisfy your hunger and help stabilize cholesterol and blood sugar levels. And they are high in vitamins and minerals.

Have these less often: Sugars, syrups and foods made with these ingredients, such as cookies, candy and ice cream, are less nutritious forms of carbohydrates, lacking vitamins and minerals. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than six teaspoons per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men. Excess added sugar — more than 12 teaspoons per day — is linked with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. 

What about low-carb diets? There isn’t one right diet for everyone, and some people — including those with type 2 diabetes — may thrive when they reduce carb intake. Most people who cut carbs successfully usually scale back on added sugar. That’s good as long as you eat a variety of nutritious, whole, plant-based foods that meet your nutrient needs. Ultimately, the best diet is one you can stick to long term.

Remember: It’s a mistake to disparage all carbohydrates just because some of them are sugary and not nutritious.”

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Stay Sun-Safe

No tan is healthy. Hopefully, you use sunscreen to protect your skin. Nearly 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer every year. When used correctly, sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer and protect your complexion.

In the U.S. only a small percentage of men and women use sunscreen regularly when outside for more than an hour. And many people who do use it aren’t using it right.

Last year, the CDC reported that sunscreen users often get burned, likely because they apply too little sunscreen to protect against skin cancer — or apply or reapply it too late during sun exposure. 

The best defense is to use a lot of sunscreen. Follow the CDC guidelines:

  1. Use an ounce (a full shot glass) of sunscreen to cover your entire exposed body, including neck, ears, top of feet and head. (Check expiration dates before using.)
  2. Choose sunscreen labeled broad spectrum and water resistant with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. This protects you from UV rays 30 times longer than without sunscreen.
  3. Choose 30 to 50 SPF for fair or sensitive complexions.
  4. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you go outside. Reapply it at least every two hours: more often when sweating or in or around water.
  5. Wear a hat, choose shade and schedule activities to avoid times when the sun is most intense (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  6. Wear sunscreen year round and even when it’s cloudy. 
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Mobility and Exercise

Explore your movable options.

Most of us can exercise without full physical mobility. Arthritis, chronic illness, severe weight problem or other ongoing physical or mental disability? Some level of regular exercise is possible when it’s personally suited to you. 

Regardless of your age or condition, staying active can help you feel stronger throughout the day. With the guidance of your health care provider, here are 3 key fitness pursuits to consider.

  1. Cardio strength: If you’re overweight or have arthritic knees, you can still exercise your heart and burn calories with soft workouts. Routine walking may be the best low-impact cardio workout if you keep a brisk pace; be sure to wear good supportive shoes. Or try elliptical and bike exercise. For upper body strengthening, consider body bands.
  2. Muscle health: Do you use a wheelchair? Focus on upper body strengthening with free-weight workouts; wheel yourself about outside daily. For chronic back pain or a shoulder injury, work your leg and core muscles.
  3. Stretching: Even with limited movement in your legs or back, you should enjoy better flexibility and comfort through daily stretching. And it may help prevent or delay further muscle atrophy.

Regular exercise can also have a powerful effect on your mental health, especially when coping with long-term physical challenges. During exercise, your body releases endorphins that energize mood and stamina, ease stress, boost your self-confidence and improve your outlook on life. 

Maybe you can’t move as well as you want to, but you have the same need to protect your health and future as people without disabilities. 

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Dealing with Negative People

Sooner or later, everyone interacts with negative people. Whether at work, home, or social situations, some folks seem to always look on the bleak side, finding fault and complaining. Unfortunately, even if you’re a natural optimist, dealing with negative people can impact your mood, too. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries.

Sure, it’s sometimes necessary to talk to people who are negative, and you don’t want to be rude or unpathetic. But instead of listening while they complain nonstop, try redirecting the conversation with positive input. Avoid overt criticism and ask how they can fix a problem or find appropriate help. Then, get on with your priorities.

Negative people often blame others for their woes, spreading gossip. Avoid this toxic situation with a simple “that’s none of my business” and walk away.

Remind yourself you can’t control negative people — but you can control your responses. Distance yourself from negativity when possible. 

If you can’t remove yourself from a situation, such as a constant complainer at work, psychologist and Psychology Today contributor Sherrie Bourg Carter advises taking a “happy break.” Do something to lift your spirits. For example, take a walk or seek a positive friend or colleague.

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Produce 3 Ways

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

There’s always nutrition research that’s up for debate — is saturated fat harmful or helpful? Is a low-fat or low-carb diet better? But the one thing all health professionals agree on is the importance of eating enough vegetables and fruit.

Filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals and important antioxidants, vegetables and fruit are known to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Your best bet is to fill half your plate with colorful options at all of your meals, and anything goes. It does not matter if the vegetables are fresh, frozen or canned — what’s most important is that you eat them daily.

Go fresh: If you live in an area where fresh vegetables and fruits are economical and readily available all year round, stock up on your favorites and enjoy. Some hardy and affordable options are carrots, beets, squash, celery, pears, apples and broccoli. Buy berries in season and freeze them for later use. 

Rely on frozen: Studies that test the vitamin content of fresh vs. frozen vegetables show that both are quite nutritious, with frozen options often edging out the fresh options. Why? Because frozen vegetables are picked and packed at the height of their nutrient value, and freezing locks in the vitamins. However, the vitamins in fresh vegetables may degrade while they are shipped and stored. Both are still nutritious options — so choose what you prefer.

Stock cans: Canned vegetables and fruit are economical and convenient, and they have a long shelf life. If possible, choose those with no added salt or sugar. Rinse those that have added salt or sugar. 

Remember that canned and frozen vegetables are convenient and help reduce food waste because they last longer than fresh vegetables. They are all great choices.

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Coping With COVID-19

By Eric Endlich, PhD

Facing a pandemic such as COVID-19 can be stressful and scary. There are continuous news reports of outbreaks and other developments. How can you remain calm?

Manage your media exposure. Staying current on important changes (e.g., travel bans) is appropriate, but it’s not necessary to check news outlets multiple times a day.

Stay connected with friends and loved ones. Try to discuss various topics, not just the current crisis. Schedule regular video chats or phone calls.

Maintain routines when possible. If your old routines (e.g., leaving for work) aren’t possible, establish new ones such as daily walks or exercise.

Seek out meaningful, productive activities. Make something creative, clean out an overstuffed closet or take an interesting course online.

Many of these strategies apply to helping children cope, too. Additional steps to support them include:

  • Correcting any misinformation. Encourage precautionary measures, but provide appropriate positive information as well. They should know, for example, that even if family members get sick, most likely they will recover.
  • Allowing them to express their feelings. Show that you understand what they feel by mirroring their communication (“sounds like you’re pretty worried”) without disputing it. Let them know that being frightened is perfectly normal.
  • Providing verbal and physical comfort. Reassure them, but avoid false promises.
  • Instructing them on ways to stay healthy. These steps include good hygiene (especially handwashing), nutrition, rest and exercise.
  • Remaining patient. They look to you as an example for how to cope. Know that the situation, while challenging for everyone, is temporary.
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Types of Asthma

It’s the peak season for pollen — a trigger for asthma symptoms. That’s why the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) declared May Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

More than 25 million Americans have this chronic condition. Asthma causes intermittent narrowing of airways, resulting in wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and shortness of breath. The symptoms can happen rarely or every day and, if acute, produce an asthma attack which may need emergency care. 

The AAFA lists 4 types of asthma:

  • Intermittent asthma means you have symptoms less than twice a week and wake up fewer than 2 nights a month with symptoms.
  • Mild persistent asthma is diagnosed if you experience symptoms
  • 2 or more days a week and symptoms wake you up 3 to 4 nights a month.
  • Moderate persistent asthma indicates symptoms occur at least daily and wake you up 1 or more nights a week.
  • Severe persistent asthma is marked by symptoms during the day and nightly awakenings.

Good news: Working with an allergist to identify and treat allergies can help reduce or prevent asthma symptoms. Note: Not all asthma types are caused by allergies. To learn more, search for asthma triggers at aafa.org.

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What causes anxiety?

While most of us experience anxiety on occasion, when it becomes severe or prolonged we may become concerned about its origin. Possible causes of anxiety include:

  • Genetic predisposition: Conditions such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder seem to run in families.
  • Medical factors: Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, asthma and other diseases can produce anxiety-like reactions.
  • Drug reactions: Withdrawal from alcohol or anti-anxiety medications, for example, can trigger symptoms. Other medications also cause anxiety. Talk to your pharmacist to see if you are taking any of them.
  • Personality or other mental disorders: Other conditions such as depression,
  • or traits such as pessimism (expecting the worst), may make you more prone to anxiety.

Anxiety can be treated effectively with psychotherapy and medication. When the underlying cause is a medical condition or drug reaction, treating that issue is often the first priority. If you don’t know what’s causing your anxiety, see your health care provider, who can help you find the right treatment.

— Eric Endlich, PhD

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