Type 2 diabetes can managed with diet, medication
November is Diabetes Awareness Month.
Diabetes affects approximately 29 million people in the United States, including 56-year-old Sam Benson.
“Every day, (I have to) think about my meds, my counts, what I eat,” he said.
Like 90 percent of the people who have diabetes, Benson has type 2, a chronic condition that impacts the way insulin is able to process blood sugar.
“In type 2 diabetes, somebody has their own insulin still, but related either to aging or becoming overweight, or both, you become resistant to insulin, so the insulin is still there, but it's not working as well,” Dr. Debra Counts, an endocrinologist, said.
Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and being active.
But many require medication to keep it in check.
Benson admits that he didn't know how to take care of himself for years.
“So, I went for a while without taking meds,” he said.
And that took a toll. He ended up having a heart attack, as well as experienced nerve damage and excruciating pain.
“Tomorrow, I go in for another surgery and I'm scared,” Benson said. “I'm nervous.”
Benson is determined to better manage his disease. He is aware of what the consequences can be.
“I know people that had amputations. A guy I went to school with went blind and he died,” Benson said. “I'm not ready for that.”
That’s why he is getting help from his local hospital, as well as community health worker Verna Hines, who works to educate patients on managing their disease.
“Your sugar count can actually drop low,” Hines said. “If you don't have anything around to bring that sugar up, you could potentially die.”
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include, being overweight, being over the age of 45, and being physically inactive.
African Americans and Hispanics are particularly at high risk.
Benson has now found the strength to rehab an old rowhome.
“I'm very proud of the things that I've done,” he said.