DM = Diabetes

According to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, patients with diabetes account for one in three hospitalizations in California, and according to Merced Sunstar, the percentage is even higher at nearly 36% in Merced County. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Merced County, with a death rate of 29%, higher than both state (20.7%) and national (21.3%) death rates, according to the Merced County Department of Public Health.

Diabetes is an endocrine disorder that involves high blood sugar levels related to damaged pancreas cells or insulin resistance (insulin allows body cells to make use of sugar). Long-term, uncontrolled high blood sugar causes damage to small blood vessels in nerves and end organs such as eyes and kidneys, leading to diabetic complications of blindness, kidney disease, and nerve damage, and is often related to serious infections and the need for amputations.

Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, and apparently 4th of July are all sweets-heavy holidays that often send waves of diabetic patients to the hospital with extemely high blood sugars high enough to change their mental status and potentially endanger their lives. Diabetic ketoacidosis patients can arrive at the emergency room in states ranging from drowsy, happy-drunk, mean-drunk, confused, violent, to nonresponsive. For some patients, this is their first diagnosis of diabetes.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men and women over the age of 35 with risk factors such as high blood presssure or high body mass index (overweight) receive blood sugar testing for early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes. Well-managed diabetes does not have to drastically affect one's quality of life, though it is admittedly a hassle to poke one's fingers to check blood sugar and administer insulin with syringes 3-4 times a day. Some type II diabetics may be able to manage their blood sugar through oral medication, dietary changes and physical activity, but monitoring blood sugar is always a good way to protect oneself from ending up in the hospital or experiencing serious complications such as blindness, kidney failure or amputation.

High sugar levels can damage blood vessels just like high blood pressure can, and because blood vessels are everywhere in our bodies, feeding our brains to our toes, we need them to be healthy and not damaged in ways that may lead to a stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs).
So even if you feel fine, go to your primary for checkups that include checking fasting blood sugar (not eating breakfast until your blood is drawn) to make sure you get the care you need and don't end up happy-drunk, mean-drunk or comatose at our emergency department after too many fourth of July cookies or Halloween candies!


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