by Dana Cooper
A 2018 study published in the medical journal Diabetes Care indicates that lesbian and bisexual women may be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Another 2018 study published in Pediatric Diabetes shows that teens who identify along the LGBTQ+ spectrum are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Why? And, where to get care?
According to both studies, lesbian and bisexual women and LGBTQ+ teens tend to be less active and have higher body mass index (BMI) than other groups. Both groups also face disproportionate amounts of emotional stress. These factors, along with a diet high in processed foods, contribute to a person’s overall risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is characterized as the body’s inability to secrete enough insulin to process blood glucose, or the amount of sugar in the blood. If either of these categories or any of the risk factors apply to you, don’t despair: The progression to type 2 diabetes can be halted or perhaps even partially reversed if caught early enough. “If you look at diabetes as a disease process, it’s a team game.”
If you or a loved one have any of the risk factors – high BMI, low physical activity levels and a diet marked by sugary, processed foods– and notice the onset of fatigue, increased thirst and urinary output and urgency, it’s a good idea to get your symptoms checked out.
AM Diabetes and Endocrinology is a local clinic, specializing in diabetes management. Its chief endocrinologist, Dr. Kashif Latif says that the physician writing the prescription is just part of it. His clinic has an award-winning roster stacked deep with doctors, nurses, diabetes educators, nutritionists and exercise physiologists, who work with patients on a treatment plan that is tailored specifically to their needs.
AM Nutrition, which represents the clinic’s outreach program to help diabetes sufferers manage their condition through dietary measures and education, is staffed by three dietitians and two diabetes educators who conduct classes to help patients understand how to make more healthful food and lifestyle choices.
But this clinic completes the care picture: exercise.
“You have a lot of gyms out there,” Latif says, “but there’s not a gym (specifically) for people with diabetes.” The clinic is addressing the problem by opening an onsite fitness center for patients with diabetes of all levels of ability. One room is equipped with weight machines, treadmills and elliptical machines for use by pre-diabetic patients or those in early stages of type 2 diabetes. That doesn’t work for everyone, of course.
“If [a patient] has nerve damage, we can’t make them walk and run too much,” Latif says. “They can develop sores and ulcers.” For patients with neuropathy and limited mobility, the clinic has a room in which low-impact seated exercise is an option. Eventually, the clinic will offer weight training, yoga and aerobics.
For some patients, unfortunately, diabetes management through diet, exercise and mediation is not enough.
Patients with advanced disease in which the pancreas is nearly or totally non-functioning require an insulin pump, which administers this life-saving hormone via an implanted device that continuously monitors a patient’s blood glucose levels. The pump delivers insulin to help control those levels, without much effort on the patient’s behalf.“It’s an artificial pancreas,” Latif says. AM Diabetes and Endocrinology’s Insulin Pump Center was the first of its kind in the entire nation, and it is staffed by physicians and nurses who are well-versed in caring for patients whose diabetes has reached this advanced stage.
Latif is quick to point out that insurance companies often do not help with the cost of meaningful diabetes management. “[The insurance companies] will say, ‘Sorry, a dietitian is not covered under your plan.’ Well, if they’re […] going to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of medication,” Latif says, “then a small fraction of that for a dietitian to see the patient once or twice a year, you get the same benefit.”
If you’re interested in heading diabetes off at the pass, Latif has good news: Exercising for just 30 minutes per day and eating a healthful diet with few processed foods could reduce your odds of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 60 percent.
For more information about AM Diabetes and Endocrinology, visit the clinic’s website at amdiabetes.net.
To learn more about diabetes and its management, visit The American Diabetes Association website at diabetes.org.