Category Archives: Diabetes Complications

Why Can’t You Score a Great Hemoglobin A1c?

Is this device from 20 years ago?

The good folks over at Diabetes Daily conducted a survey of people with diabetes to find out what they were doing to get good HgbA1c levels. HgbA1c is a measure of average blood sugar levels over the prior three months. Lower HgbA1c levels, generally speaking, are linked to fewer diabetes complications. Prevention is always better than treatment. If you run across someone succeeding at anything, wouldn’t you want to know how they do it, assuming it’s a goal you share?  I recommend the entire report to you. An excerpt:

Type 2 Diabetes

Those in the lower A1c bracket (<6.5%) are significantly more likely than those with a higher A1c (>8%) to:

  • Eat a very low-carbohydrate diet (<40 g per day): 32% vs. 13%
  • Eat a ketogenic diet (<20 g per day): 13% vs. 0%
  • Not vary their daily carbohydrate intake: 16% vs. 29%
  • Eat a low-carbohydrate lunch (<20 g) on a regular basis: 50% vs. 28%
  • Use an insulin pump: 10% vs. 3%
  • Vary the timing of their meal-time insulin: 53% vs. 40%
  • Exercise: Daily: 14% vs 8%. Exercise 4-6 times per week: 20% vs 8%.Exercise less than once per week: 51% vs 73%
  • Feel very confident about their diabetes management skills: 69% vs. 26%
  • Feel very optimistic about their long-term health: 58% vs. 30%
  • Feel that diabetes doesn’t greatly interfere with their daily life: 56% vs. 19%
  • Report a high degree of socioemotional support related to diabetes: 59% vs. 46%

Type 1 Diabetes

Those in the lower A1c bracket (<6.5%) are significantly more likely than those with a higher A1c (>8%) to:

  • Eat a very low-carbohydrate diet (<40 g per day): 22% vs. 7%
  • Not vary their daily carbohydrate intake: 9% vs. 28%
  • Use an insulin pump: 71% vs. 53%
  • Wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM): 76% vs. 60%
  • Have lower “high glucose alert” setting on their CGM
  • Have lower “low glucose alert” settings on their CGM
  • Not vary the timing of their meal-time insulin: 43% vs. 59%
  • Incorporate the protein content of their meal in determining their bolus insulin dose: 44% vs. 23
  • Eat similar food every day, at similar times, AND limit eating out at restaurants: 20% vs. 7%
  • Exercise: Daily: 21% vs 11%. Exercise 4-6 times per week: 24% vs 8%. Exercise less than once per week: 40% vs 66%
  • Feel very confident about their diabetes management skills: 82% vs. 39
  • Feel very optimistic about their long-term health: 59% vs. 42el that diabetes doesn’t greatly interfere with their daily life: 35% vs. 21%
  • Report a high degree of socioemotional support related to diabetes: 68% vs. 56%

Source: Habits of a Great A1c Survey Data Report – Diabetes Daily

Lead researcher was Maria Muccioli, PhD.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: The Paleobetic Diet provides 40–80 g of digestible carbs daily. For 20–40 g/day, check out my Low-Carb Diabetic Mediterranean Diet.

Click pic to purchase book at Amazon.com. E-book versions available at Smashwords.com.

Diet Changes Help With Diabetic Gastroparesis

bariatric surgery, Steve Parker MD

The only picture of stomach I have

When you eat a meal, your stomach holds it there for a while then gradually releases contents into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. The stomach makes those releases by contraction of muscles in the wall of the stomach. Those muscles are under control of the autonomic nervous system. In some folks with diabetes, the nerves controlling the stomach muscles don’t work very well, so stomach contractions are weak. Food just sits in the stomach for too long, delaying digestion and absorption of nutrients. One result is unpredictable blood sugar levels after meals, no matter how carefully you count carb grams. The medical term for these weak stomach contractions is gastroparesis.

From Diabetes Care:

“How is diabetic gastroparesis best managed?

Consultation by an RDN [registered dietitian, I reckon] knowledgeable in the management of gastroparesis is helpful in setting and maintaining treatment goals. Treatment goals include managing and reducing symptoms; correcting fluid, electrolyte, and nutritional deficiencies and glycemic imbalances; and addressing the precipitating cause(s) with appropriate drug therapy. Correcting hyperglycemia is one strategy for the management of gastroparesis, as acute hyperglycemia delays gastric emptying. Modification of food and beverage intake is the primary management strategy, especially among individuals with mild symptoms.

People with gastroparesis may find it helpful to eat small, frequent meals. Replacing solid food with a greater proportion of liquid calories to meet individualized nutrition requirements may be helpful because consuming solid food in large volumes is associated with longer gastric emptying times. Large meals can also decrease the lower esophageal sphincter pressure, which may cause gastric reflux [heartburn], providing further aggravation.

Results from a randomized controlled trial demonstrated eating plans that emphasize small-particle-size (<2 mm) foods may reduce severity of gastrointestinal symptoms. Small-particle-size food is defined as “food easy to mash with a fork into small particle size.” High-fiber foods, such as whole intact grains and foods with seeds, husks, stringy fibers, and membranes, should be excluded from the eating plan. Many of the foods typically recommended for people with diabetes, such as leafy green salads, raw vegetables, beans, and fresh fruits, and other food like fatty or tough meat, can be some of the most difficult foods for the gastroparetic stomach to grind and empty. Notably, the majority of nutrition therapy interventions for gastroparesis are based on the knowledge of the pathophysiology and clinical judgment rather than empirical research.”

Source: Nutrition Therapy for Adults With Diabetes or Prediabetes: A Consensus Report | Diabetes Care

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: In my current practice setting, I see more gastroparesis caused by chronic opioid use than by diabetes.

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Is Alzheimer’s Disease Caused By Type 2 Diabetes?

dementia, memory loss, Mediterranean diet, low-carb diet, glycemic index, dementia memory loss

“More basic research is critical.”

Several scientific studies, but not all, link type 2 diabetes with Alzheimer’s disease. Some go so far as to say Alzheimer’s is type 3 diabetes.

My Twitter feed brought to my attention a scientific article I thought would clarify the relationships between diabetes, carbohydrate consumption, and Alzheimer’s dementia (full text).

It didn’t.

Click the full text link to read all about insulin, amylin, insulin degrading enzyme, amyloid–β, and other factors that might explain the relationship between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s dementia. You’ll also find a comprehensive annotated list of the scientific studies investigating the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Bottom line: We still don’t know the fundamental cause of Alzheimer’s disease. A cure and highly effective preventive measures are far in the future.

Action Plan For You

You may be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by:

  • avoiding type 2 diabetes
  • preventing progression of prediabetes to diabetes
  • avoiding obesity
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a Mediterranean-style diet

Scientists have no idea whether a Stone Age diet prevents dementia.

Carbohydrate restriction helps some folks prevent or resolve obesity, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. A low-carb Mediterranean diet is an option in my Advanced Mediterranean Diet (2nd edition).

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Schilling, Melissa. Unraveling Alzheimer’s: Making Sense of the Relationship Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 51 (2016): 961-977.

 

 

 

Natural Versus Drug Therapy for Metabolic Syndrome

"These are flying off the shelves!"

“But selling drugs is good for the economy!”

Have you heard that 60% of adults in the U.S. are taking prescription drugs? That’s up from 50% a decade ago. UPI has the pertinent details. A snippet:

Many of the most used drugs reflect the effects of metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions tied to obesity and diet.

“Eight of the 10 most commonly used drugs in 2011–2012 are used to treat components of the cardiometabolic syndrome, including hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia,” researchers wrote in the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Another is a proton-pump inhibitor used for gastroesophageal reflux, a condition more prevalent among individuals who are overweight or obese. Thus, the increase in use of some agents may reflect the growing need for treatment of complications associated with the increase in overweight and obesity.”

I’m not anti-drug, generally. Lord knows I prescribe my fair share. But in addition to the cost of drugs, we have side effects and drug interactions to worry about. If we in the U.S. would effectively attack overweight and obesity, we’d be much better off.

But it’s a lot easier to just pop a pill, isn’t it?

Especially if someone else is paying for the pill.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Is the Hemoglobin A1c Test Always Accurate?

From 97 to 90 mg/dl

Not the only way to assess glucose control

Can you believe I’ve had patients show me a week’s worth of home glucose tests showing great numbers, tell me they’ve been that good for the last three months, and then I find a sky high Hemoglobin A1c test? How can that be?

Hemglobin A1c (or HgbA1c) is a standard measure of glucose control, or lack thereof, over the three months preceding the blood test.

It’s also used for diagnosis of diabetes and prediabetes. Levels between 5.7 and 6.4% suggest prediabetes. Levels of 6.5% of higher indicate diabetes.

Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. HgbA1c tells us if many sugar molecules are stuck to the hemoglobin, a process called glycosylation. HgbA1c is sometimes referred to as glycated hemoglobin. About half of the HgbA1c value is determined by blood sugar levels in the month before the blood draw.

But the HgbA1c test is not always an accurate reflection of blood sugar levels.

Many factors unrelated to serum glucose (sugar) levels can alter the HgbA1c value. Here they are:

Pregnancy

Pregnant women tend to have lower than average HgbA1c.

 

Certain Types of Anemia

Iron-deficiency anemia may yield falsely low or high HgbA1c, depending on whether it’s being treated or not.

Acute bleeding and hemolytic anemia give falsely low HbA1c values.

The unifying feature here is that young red blood cells, called reticulocytes, take some time to get glycosylated.

Lack of a Spleen 

HgbA1c will be falsely high. Your spleen removes old red blood cells. Not having a spleen increases the life span of red blood cells, so they can accumulate more glucose molecules.

Various Hemoglobin Types or Congenital Abnormalities

Hemoglobin S and hemoglobin C may lead to deceptively low HgbA1c. Hemoglobin F tends to overestimate.

Blood Transfusions

Recent red blood cell transfusions will lower the HgbA1c if it was elevated to begin with, especially if lots of blood is transfused.

Renal Failure

It’s complicated; talk to your kidney specialist.

Chronic Disease

HgbA1c values can be unreliable in chronic alcoholism, chronic narcotic users, severely high triglyceride or bilirubin levels, kidney failure, vitamin and mineral deficiencies (particularly the vitamins and minerals needed to make red blood cells).

Race

Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks tend to have higher HgbA1c’s than Whites who have the same blood sugar levels. The difference is about 0.3% (absolute, not relative.

Wild Glycemic Excursions

What’s this? You might call it labile diabetes: dramatic swings between sugars too low and way too high. For example, this patient may have daily glucose swings between 40 and 210 mg/dl (2.2  and 11.7 mmol/l). His HgbA1c may turn out near normal or acceptable, but many experts worry that the wild oscillations may contribute to diabetic microvascular complications like eye and kidney disease.

Are There Alternatives to HgbA1c?

Yes. If you think the HgbA1c test is inaccurate, consider other tests such as continuous glucose monitoring, fructosamine, glycated albumin, 1,5-anhydroglucitol, and more frequent home glucose monitoring.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Bazerbachi, F., et al. Is hemoglobin A1c an accurate measure of glycemic control in all diabetic patients? Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, vol. 81, #3, March 2014: 146-149

Do You Have Hypoglycemia Unawareness?

Steve Parker MD

Watch out for hypoglycemia particularly if you exercise vigorously and take drugs with the potential to cause hypoglycemia, like insulin and sulfonylureas

If you take drugs that can cause hypoglycemia, you need to know about “hypoglycemia unawareness.” (Click for a quick review of diabetes drugs.)

Some people with diabetes, particularly after having the condition for many years, lose the ability to detect hypoglycemia just by the way they feel. This hypoglycemia unawareness is obviously more dangerous than being able to detect and treat hypoglycemia early on. Blood sugar levels may continue to fall and reach a life-threatening degree.

Hypoglycemia unawareness can be caused by impairment of the nervous system (autonomic neuropathy) or by beta blocker drugs prescribed for high blood pressure or heart disease. It’s more common in folks who have had diabetes for many years. People with hypoglycemia unawareness need to check blood sugars more frequently, particularly if driving a car or operating dangerous machinery.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Sulfonylurea Drugs Linked to Heart Disease in Women

…according to this article at Diabetes Care. The study population was the Nurses Health Study. The longer the sulfonylurea was used, the stronger the association with Coronary Heart Disease. CHD is by far the most common cause of heart attacks. On the bright side, the drugs were not linked to stroke risk. Remember, correlation is not causation, blah, blah, blah…

This report is another reason to do all you can to control blood sugars with diet and exercise, minimizing the risks—known and unknown—of long-term drugs.

I rarely start my patients on sulfonylureas these days.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Pioglitazone May Prevent Dementia

MP900178842[1]

Pioglitazone (aka Actos) is a type 2 diabetes drug in the TZD class. You could call it an “insulin sensitizer.” A recent report out of Germany suggests that pioglitazone prevents dementia, but it’s not a very strong linkage. If it works, I wonder if it’s simply related to better control of blood sugar, which could be accomplished with a variety of means. 

The best popular press report I’ve seen is at Bloomberg.

German researchers went fishing for associations in a huge database of patients and drug usage. Their formal report hasn’t even been published yet. A five-year study was recently initiated to further investigate the possibility that piogoitazone prevents dementia. I doubt this will pan out.

Steve Parker, M.D.

David Spero, RN, Makes the Case for Tight Blood SugarControl

at Diabetes Self-Managment.

Steve Parker MD, paleobetic diet,

Reduce retinopathy risk with good blood sugar control

David writes:

Two famous studies showed that tight control of glucose did not cause a statistically significant reduction in heart attacks or early death. But roughly 20 years after the studies ended, tight control subjects are living longer and healthier than those who were in the comparison groups.

Those two famous studies, however, did originally show evidence of better eye, nerve, and kidney function via good control.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PWDs (Diabetics) Having Fewer Heart Attacks, Amputations, and Strokes

MedPageToday has the details. This jibes with my experience over the last 30 years. A quote:

An analysis of national data found that rates of myocardial infarction (MI) in diabetic patients dropped about 68%, and amputation rates were halved between 1990 and 2010, Edward Gregg, PhD, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues reported in the April 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Strokes and deaths from hyperglycemic crisis also fell dramatically.

The number of adults reporting a diagnosis of diabetes more than tripled during the study period.

Steve Parker, M.D.