Discussing Diabetes

November is American Diabetes Month, so let’s discuss this chronic metabolic disease that affects 37.3 million adults in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one of five aren’t even aware they have the disease. Yet, it’s the seventh leading cause of death in the country.

When you eat food — particularly carbohydrates such as bread, rice and pasta — your body breaks it down into a simple sugar called glucose, which enters your cells to be used as fuel. But glucose cannot enter your cells without help, which comes from a hormone made by your pancreas called insulin. Insulin serves as the “key” to help glucose get inside your cells.

With diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough or any insulin, or cannot use the insulin it makes efficiently, which is called insulin resistance. As a result, the level of glucose in your bloodstream increases. High blood glucose levels over time can lead to serious health complications, such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), kidney damage, eye damage (retinopathy) and even death.

There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational.

Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for approximately 5 percent of cases, is an autoimmune disorder. With this type, your body’s infection-fighting immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in your pancreas. Type 1 can occur at any time but is most often diagnosed in young children, teens and young adults.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common, affecting up to 95 percent of cases. With Type 2, your body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and glucose builds up in the bloodstream. It typically develops over many years and is most often diagnosed in adults older than 35, although it’s being seen with greater frequency in young children, teens and younger adults.

Gestational diabetes develops in some pregnant women It typically goes away after the pregnancy, but patients are at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes when they are older.

There also is is a condition called prediabetes if blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not enough to be formally diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are similar, but their onset is more rapid with Type 1. Symptoms appear slowly, over time, with Type 2. General symptoms include increased hunger, increased thirst, weight loss, frequent urination, blurry vision, fatigue and sores that are slow to heal.

Most women with gestational diabetes experience no symptoms. Pregnant women are routinely tested for diabetes between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, so getting regular prenatal care is important to detect and treat this condition before it causes damage to the mother and baby.

There are different causes for each type. Researchers don’t know what causes the immune system to attack beta cells in the pancreas that result in Type 1 diabetes but suspect that genetics plays a role. They also surmise a virus may activate the immune system to attack beta cells.

Type 2 is associated with a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. The condition runs in families. It is more common in people who are overweight, eat an unhealthy diet and have a sedentary lifestyle. Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides or prediabetes also puts someone at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy. The placenta produces hormones that make cells less sensitive to the effects of insulin, causing high levels of blood glucose in the bloodstream. If a woman is overweight while pregnant or has a family history of Type 2 diabetes, she is at a greater risk for developing gestational diabetes.

Those with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to survive. In many cases, Type 2 diabetes can be managed with a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. If that’s not enough, patients must to take oral medication and/or receive insulin injections.

Treatment for gestational diabetes includes special meal plans and scheduled physical activity. In some cases, medication or insulin injections may become necessary to keep blood glucose levels at a healthy level.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. However, there are some things that can reduce the risk for developing Type 2 and gestational diabetes, including:

• Eat a healthy diet high in fiber and non-starchy vegetables.
• Be physically active. Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Quit smoking.
• Get seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
• Lower stress. Try deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or another relaxation technique.

Patti DiPanfilo

Authors:

Florida Health Care News

About Florida Health Care News

ifoundMYdoctor.com is the online presence of Florida Health Care News, Inc., the oldest and largest family of health care information publications in the state. Since 1987, Florida Health Care News has been a highly respected, widely read and trusted source of health care information for readers throughout much of Florida.

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