If you don’t like your physician, find a new one
So, you’ve got diabetes. You’re trying to deal with it or you wouldn’t be here. You’ve got a heck of a lot of medical information to master.
Unless you have a good diabetes specialist physician on your team, you may not be getting optimal care. Below are some guidelines you may find helpful. The goal is to prevent diabetes complications. Many primary care physicians will not be up-to-date on the guidelines. Don’t hesitate to discuss them with your doctor. Nobody cares as much about your health as you do.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends the following items be done yearly (except as noted) in non-pregnant adults with diabetes. (Incidentally, I don’t necessarily agree with all ADA guidelines.) The complete ADA guidelines are available on the Internet.
- Lipid profile (every two years if results are fine and stable)
- Comprehensive foot exam
- Screening test for distal symmetric polyneuropathy: pinprick, vibration, monofilament pressure sense
- Serum creatinine and estimate of glomerular filtration rate (MDRD equation)
- Test for albumin in the urine, such as measurement of albumin-to-creatinine ratio in a random spot urine specimen
- Comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist (if exam is normal, every two or three years is acceptable)
- Hemoglobin A1c at least twice a year, but every three months if therapy has changed or glucose control is not at goal
- Flu shots
Other Vaccinations, Weight Loss, Diabetic Diet, Prediabetes, Alcohol, Exercise, Etc.
Additionally, the 2013 ADA guidelines recommend:
- Pneumococcal vaccination. “A one time re-vaccination is recommended for individuals >64 years of age previously immunized when they were <65 years of age if the vaccine was administered >5 years ago.” Also repeat the vaccination after five years for patients with nephrotic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, other immunocompromised states (poor ability to fight infection), or transplantation.
- Hepatitis B vaccination to unvaccinated adults who are 19 through 59 years of age.
- Weight loss for all overweight diabetics. “For weight loss, either low-carbohydrate, low-fat calorie-restricted, or Mediterranean diets may be effective in the short-term (up to two years).” For those on low-carb diets, monitor lipids, kidney function, and protein consumption, and adjust diabetic drugs as needed. The optimal macronutrient composition of weight loss diets has not been established. (Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.)
- “The mix of carbohydrate, protein, and fat may be adjusted to meet the metabolic goals and individual preferences of the person with diabetes.” “It must be clearly recognized that regardless of the macronutrient mix, total caloric intake must be appropriate to weight management goal.”
- “A variety of dietary meal patterns are likely effective in managing diabetes including Mediterranean-style, plant-based (vegan or vegetarian), low-fat and lower-carbohydrate eating patterns.”
- “Monitoring carbohydrate, whether by carbohydrate counting, choices, or experience-based estimation, remains a key strategy in achieving glycemic control.”
- Limit alcohol to one (women) or two (men) drinks a day.
- Limit saturated fat to less than seven percent of calories.
- During the initial diabetic exam, screen for peripheral arterial disease (poor circulation). Strongly consider calculation of the ankle-brachial index for those over 50 years of age; consider it for younger patients if they have risk factors for poor circulation.
- Those at risk for diabetes, including prediabetics, should aim for moderate weight loss (about seven percent of body weight) if overweight. Either low-carbohydrate, low-fat calorie-restricted, or Mediterranean diets may be effective in the short-term (up to 2 years). Also important is exercise: at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. “Individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes should be encouraged to achieve the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendation for dietary fiber (14 g fiber/1,000 kcal) and foods containing whole grains (one-half of grain intake).” Limit intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.
- “Adults with diabetes should be advised to perform at least 150 min/week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (50–70% of maximum heart rate), spread over at least 3 days/week with no more than two consecutive days without exercise. In the absence of contraindications, adults with type 2 diabetes should be encouraged to perform resistance training at least twice per week.”
- Screening for coronary artery disease before an exercise program is depends on the physician judgment on a case-by-case basis. Routine screening is not recommended.
Olive, olive oil, and vinegar: classic Mediterranean foods
Obviously, some of my dietary recommendations conflict with ADA guidelines. The experts assembled by the ADA to compose guidelines were well-intentioned, intelligent, and hard-working. The guidelines are supported by 528 scientific journal references. I greatly appreciate the expert panel’s work. We’ve simply reached some different conclusions. By the same token, I’m sure the expert panel didn’t have unanimous agreement on all the final recommendations. I invite you to review the dietary guidelines yourself, discuss with your personal physician, then decide where you stand.
General Blood Glucose Treatment Goals
The ADA in 2013 suggests these therapeutic goals for non-pregnant adults:
- Fasting blood glucoses: 70 to 130 mg/dl (3.9 to 7.2 mmol/l)
- Peak glucoses one to two hours after start of meals: under 180 mg/dl (10 mmol/l)
- Hemoglobin A1C: under 7%
- Blood pressure: under 140/80 mmHg
- LDL cholesterol: under 100 mg/dl (2.6 mmol/l). (In established cardiovascular disease: <70 mg/dl or 1.8 mmol/l may be a better goal.)
- HDL cholesterol: over 40 mg/dl (1.0 mmol/l) for men and over 50 mg/dl (1.3 mmol/l) for women
- Triglycerides: under 150 mg/dl (1.7 mmol/l)
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) in 2011 proposed somewhat “tighter” blood sugar goals for non-pregnant adults:
- Fasting blood glucoses: under 110 mg/dl (6.11 mmol/l)
- Peak glucoses 2 hours after start of meals: under 140 mg/dl (7.78 mmol/l)
- Hemoglobin A1C: 6.5% or less
The ADA reminds clinicians, and I’m sure the AACE guys agree, that diabetes control goals should be individualized, based on age and life expectancy of the patient, duration of diabetes, other diseases that are present, individual patient preferences, and whether the patient is able to easily recognize and deal with hypoglycemia. I agree completely.
Steve Parker, M.D.