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CATES: It’s Diabetes Awareness Month, getting tested is easier than ever

0 3 years ago

On this list of diseases and conditions I hate, COVID has now become #1. I have never seen any condition cause so much suffering. It is an awful disease, probably taking the worse toll I’ve seen on people in terms of destroying their health in the short term, and even in the medium term. The longer term, 20 years from now, I am terrified to even think about. But COVID for me takes that #1 spot because it’s also destroyed so many things not directly related to health—the economy, businesses small and large, how we shop, how we engage socially, it’s changed the political climate, and even our civility and respect towards other human beings.

The rest of my list is much more limited to the disease itself. They all just moved down a spot when COVID took over the top. Cancer is my #2, and Diabetes is my #3. The good things about Cancer and Diabetes, is every year, they get a little less awful. We are getting so much better at early detection, treatments, and management of both of those diseases. The best thing on those conditions is that cures are within reach.

Diabetes in some ways more than cancer has seen some big gains in the last decade. When I was a young nurse, diagnosis of diabetes was based on symptoms, serial fasting blood glucose levels, and glucose tolerance testing. Now it is a very simple blood test that literally can be done in most physicians’ offices in minutes. That test is a Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). HbA1c is a test that with a one-time blood sample as small as a drop of blood from a finger stick can tell you and your physician what your average blood sugar has run over the last 3 months.

The way that works is very simply, it takes about 30 days to make a blood cell and they live about another 60 days. As those cells are being made and floating around in the circulation, they absorb glucose (the type of sugar that your cells use for energy) based on how high or low the glucose in the blood is over that period. Think of HbA1c like a batting average for a baseball player. It doesn’t tell you what one game looks like; it tells you about the player’s performance over the season. One game doesn’t show who is great or terrible in baseball, but that batting average sure does.


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