By Anne Eickstadt


The Boone County Council on Aging always is seeking new speakers with topics of interest to older adults and their caregivers. They reach out with programs to help enrich and improve their quality of life.

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, Dr. Sravanthi Nagavalli appeared at a breakfast meeting to speak on the topic of Understanding Diabetes.

Diabetes can be a life-long condition which needs to be treated and constantly managed with diet and exercise. The term diabetes covers two different issues. Both issues deal with the body’s production of insulin, and how the body uses the insulin it produces.

The body takes in food. During digestion, complex starches are broken down into simple starches changing the food into glucose, the body’s main source of energy. Insulin is produced by the pancreas as a “key” to “unlock” cells and allow the cells to absorb the glucose they need.

The first kind of health issue which is known as diabetes is when the pancreas does not make enough insulin to help the body utilize food. This is commonly known as type I diabetes. Most people with this condition are diagnosed with it before 20-years-old.

The second health issue which falls under the umbrella of diabetes is when cells have developed a resistance to insulin and do not use it properly, so the food glucose cannot enter into cells to be used as energy.

The pancreas is doing its job and producing the proper amount of insulin but the “lock” has changed, and the key no longer works. This is type II diabetes and most people who are diagnosed with this condition are over 40-years-old. This term also covers the issue of the liver releasing too much glucose into the system, so the system is unable to utilize all of it.

Nearly 26 million people in the United States live with diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation.

One indication of the onset of diabetes is if losing too much weight without even trying. Other signs can be blurry vision, increased urination, always being thirsty, or always being constantly tired.

In either case, diabetes can be managed with a combination of education, healthy eating, blood glucose monitoring and physical activity. Blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol need to be controlled.  Regular visits to health care providers also is very important.

Nagavalli recommended screenings for early detection of the issue.

“Long term complications are silent for several years and then it is not reversible,” she said.

These long term complication include blindness – the blood vessels leak into the eye causing nerve damage due to lack of blood circulation.  Kidney issues – nephrons in the kidneys filter out toxic substances. The small blood vessels are damaged by the diabetes and 50 to 60 percent of the kidney function is lost. Diabetes can cause non-healing ulcers to the feet which can only be treated by amputation.

Heart attacks, nerve damage, and strokes are also common in diabetics.

Doctors prescribe medications only after determining which particular issue each patient has. The medications are designed to affect kidneys or liver or pancreas or whichever combination the body is dealing with.

Sometimes a patient will see a commercial for a tablet or an injection and will come in to discuss that medication with their doctor only to find out that the medication they are already taking is dealing with that issue, or that particular medication is for a variation of diabetes that they do not have.

The Boone County Council on Aging holds these early morning breakfast meetings at the Keen Age Center, at 2141 Henry Luckow Lane in Belvidere.

For further information about their programs, visit


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