WHAT IS DIABETES ?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition in which your body demonstrates a reduced ability to remove glucose from your blood and into its cells after eating or drinking anything that contains carbohydrates. This reduced ability leads to hyperglycemia or elevated blood glucose level.
It is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because many individuals do not even know that they have it.
Your body uses a variety of enzymes to breakdown the food that you eat. Food is broken down into macro and micro nutrients which in turn are used in different parts of the body for different jobs. As an example, the fat is used to facilitate brain health whereas the carbohydrates are used to provide energy to the body.
The carbohydrates are the complex sugars that are broken down into simpler forms referred to as glucose. Glucose is then released into your blood stream for immediate release as energy or for storage to facilitate later use.
In order to store and use glucose, your body produces a hormone called insulin. This is manufactured by the beta cells in your pancreas. These cells are sensitive to the concentration of insulin in your bloodstream and can release it on an as-needed basis. They monitor the amount of blood sugar in your blood stream to elevate or decrease the production of insulin. The beta cells in your pancreas need to release more insulin in order to deal with the elevated blood glucose level. Now, as this insulin is produced, the enzymes activate other cells in your body telling them to accept glucose as energy. This gradually diminishes the amount of glucose circulating in the bloodstream, leading to decreased production of insulin.
The process is a continuous one and is not dependent on what, how and when you eat. Blood sugar level can increase in your blood stream after consumption of a high carbohydrate diet, even if you do not have diabetes.
The balance between energy and insulin is what provides you the energy to function normally.
Diabetes as a disease impacts this process and therefore the ability of your body to naturally produce insulin in balanced amounts.
Depending on the kind of diabetes that you have been impacted with, the natural process can be impacted in several ways –this may include the inability of beta cells in your pancreas to produce insulin because of being overworked. As your blood glucose level reaches 180 mg/dl, your kidneys attempt to flush out the excess glucose through urination. This is primarily the reason why excessive urination and thirst are important signs of diabetes.
If unchecked, diabetes can be a serious, even life-threatening disease leading to threatening complications such as blindness, gangrenes or even death due to a diabetic coma.
FACTORS CAUSING DIABETES
In order to eliminate diabetes from your life, you must understand the factors that cause it. Here are some of these factors:
Being overweight or obese has been identified as the number one risk factor for diabetes. In fact, 80% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
Cigarette smoke elevates the level of inflammation in your body. This increases the risk of diabetes in smokers as opposed to non-smokers. Smoking can also elevate the level of blood glucose in your body and hence worsen your insulin resistance.
Physical Inactivity can increase your risk of diabetes, even if you are not overweight or obese. On the other hand, in case you are overweight or obese – physical activity can help you reduce your risk of diabetes.
Replacing your saturated fat with healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and olive oil can reduce insulin resistance.
Low Fiber Diet:
A diet rich in fiber helps in decreasing the amount of insulin needed after a snack or meal.
Sugar Sweetened Beverages:
Research shows that people who consume as low as two sugar sweetened beverages in a day have a 26% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who consume less than one soda a month.
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Let us first try and understand the kind of diabetes that you have.
There are three different types of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. All three kinds are related to insulin sensitivity. Let us look at these in a little more detail:
TYPE 1 DIABETES
The Type 1 Diabetes can happen at any age and is generally referred to as juvenile diabetes or IDDM (Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus). It is autoimmune and generally manifests itself before the age of 20. In patients over the age of 30, your doctor may refer to this as LADA – Latent Autoimmune Disease of Adulthood.
This kind of diabetes is quite rare and only five percent of individuals with diabetes have this kind of diabetes.
In type 1 diabetes, the patient’s pancreas manufactures little to no insulin naturally. In fact, they often lack the actual beta cells needed to produce insulin. In cases where beta cells are being attacked and destroyed, the symptoms only appear when the number of cells goes down.
Most medical practitioners believe that type 1 diabetes is genetic, however, a few attribute this to a viral attack too! Some scientists believe that it is caused by the immune system attacking the pancreas, destroying beta cells and stopping them from functioning.
Others feel that it is your body’s reaction to certain viruses that initiates this in error. Most scientists however agree that there is a genetic predisposition involved.
Type 1 diabetes sufferers will have the disease for life since if the cells that produce insulin are destroyed, they cannot be reproduced.
Patients diagnosed with IDDM may require regular insulin injections.
The symptoms of insulin dependent diabetes may include tiredness, unexplained weight loss, increased need to urinate, general itchiness, and excessive thirst. It is often misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
Complications of type 1 diabetes include ketoacidosis and hypoglycemia. It may also lead to conditions such as kidney failure, neuropathy, retinopathy, stroke and heart diseases.
There is no known preventive mechanism for type 1 diabetes.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
Type 2 diabetes is also called diabetes mellitus. It normally impacts overweight individuals, especially during their old age. A sedentary lifestyle has been attributed as the main cause for this kind of diabetes. It is generally called the adult onset diabetes – although a number of children are also being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – primarily because of their sedentary lifestyles. Around 90% of the total diabetic cases are type 2 diabetic cases.
In this kind of diabetes, the pancreatic cells can produce normal amounts of insulin. However, for reasons unknown, your body is unable to use this insulin effectively. This condition is also called insulin resistance. The ineffective insulin levels in your body lead to spikes in your blood sugar level, which in turn damages your cells.
Generally triggered by a sedentary lifestyle, this form of diabetes can be hereditary as well, in case your parent or sibling has ever been diagnosed with diabetes.
Here are a few risk factors for this kind of diabetes:
- Being overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Relatives previously diagnosed with diabetes
- Unhealthy diet
- High blood pressure
- African-Caribbean descent or Asian descent
Type 2 diabetes generally triggers after 40, the common symptoms including excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea, blurred vision, weight loss, slow wound healing, along with a loss in muscle mass, tiredness and hunger. Sometimes these symptoms persist for months and even diabetics are unable to figure out that they have been impacted.
The chance of inheriting type 2 diabetes in children is as high as 75% in case both parents have been previously diagnosed with diabetes.
The onset of type 2 diabetes is not as immediate as type 1 diabetes. In fact, there may be certain individuals who may not demonstrate any visible symptoms.
The treatment generally involves dietary and lifestyle modifications, incorporating moderate forms of exercise and eliminating unhealthy foods. Sometimes, you may need to take diabetic medications too.
People suffering with type 2 diabetes are advised to keep a check on their blood sugar levels in order to avoid diabetic complications.
Patients are even advised insulin injections in case their condition worsens.
Gestational diabetes typically develops during pregnancy and is generally not tested until week 24, unless you have specific associated risk factors. This is caused by fluctuation of hormones during pregnancy, generally during the second or third trimester.
It affects only 2-10% of the pregnancies and is more common in American Indians, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans. It is also common in women whose family has a history of diabetes. This kind of diabetes is easily manageable and typically goes away after child birth if the woman takes care of her dietary and exercise habits.
A few women may also need injections in order to diminish the risk of hyperglycemia for both, mother and baby. Vomiting and tiredness are common symptoms during gestational diabetes. Complications such as high birth weight babies are extremely common and child birth normally happens through a Caesarean section. Frequent testing for ketones is also very important and ketoacidosis is fatal to the fetus.