DIABETES – IT ISN’T SWEET
November is National Diabetes Month. If you or a loved one has diabetes, you know how difficult this disease can be to manage. You obviously can’t stop eating, but what you eat when you have diabetes can have serious consequences. Some are born with diabetes – while others acquire it later in life. Learn more about what it is, how it can be prevented, and how you can live with it.
DIABETES – NO CURRENT CURE
Diabetes affects more than 382 million people throughout the world – and 29% of the citizens in the U.S. have diabetes. The only current cure for Type 1 diabetes is a pancreas transplant, which is difficult to obtain – and certainly not in the numbers that are needed. Those with diabetes are faced with a lifetime of disease management.
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF DIABETES.
One type is Type 1 diabetes – which used to be called juvenile diabetes or early-onset diabetes. With this type of diabetes the body does not produce any insulin. About 10% of those with diabetes are Type 1. These people must have insulin for the rest of their lives to survive. With proper control, they can live a full and normal life.
Type 2 diabetes is the type in which the body produces insulin, although not in sufficient amounts. This type of diabetes can often be controlled through diet, pills and other lifestyle changes such as weight loss. Your doctor can tell you if you have this type of diabetes. Typically a fasting blood test is used for the diagnosis.
The third type is gestational diabetes which affects some women during pregnancy and typically goes away after childbirth.
There are a variety of symptoms for this disease, many of which are symptoms of other conditions. The symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Intense thirst and hunger
- Weight gain
- Unusual weight loss
- Cuts and bruises that do not heal
- Male sexual dysfunction
- Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
CAUSES OF DIABETES
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder. In Type 1 patients, the pancreas is simply not producing insulin. In Type 2 people, the disease is usually preceded by “prediabetes” in which there is a tendency for diabetes. Being overweight/obese causes the body to release chemicals that can destabilize the body’s cardiovascular and metabolic systems. This may be the case with Type 2 diabetics. With Type 2 diabetics, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or does not metabolize it properly.
If someone is pre-diabetic, they may be able to halt the onset of diabetes with weight loss, exercise and a healthy diet. Once a person has Type 2 diabetes, it tends to be progressive – meaning that insulin may eventually be needed to control the body’s metabolism. Type 2 tends to be diagnosed in people who are mature, or aging.
LIVING WITH DIABETES
Type 1 people will need insulin and will also need to carefully manage their food intake and exercise output. They will often use a glucose monitor to keep a close eye on their blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. They will have a goal to keep a steady HbA1c level (a marker of average glucose levels over recent months) of 7% to reduce the risk of diabetes complications. In some cases an implantable insulin pump is needed to provide a steady insulin dosage without the need for individual needle sticks several times per day.
Type 2 people may not need to self-monitor their glucose on a daily basis, and can instead follow their doctor’s prescribed regimen of pills and a balanced diet. In many cases a Type 2 diabetic will be able to learn when their blood glucose is too high or too low by the way that they feel – although the only certain measurement is a blood test.
There is enough that is scary about diabetes without believing in many of the diabetic myths that are out there. Here is what medical experts believe to be true:
- Diabetics don’t need a special diet. They need the same healthy diet that everyone else needs.
- Diabetics can eat chocolate and sugary foods. The only restriction is that they manage their insulin to account for the extra sugar, or eat it at the same time as a full meal.
- Overweight people don’t eventually develop diabetes. Some people will – others won’t.
- If you have diabetes you can still exercise. Exercise is great – although you should consult your doctor before beginning to exercise if you have been sedentary.
- Children don’t outgrow diabetes. Sadly, if you are Type 1 insulin dependent – it is a lifelong condition.
- Diabetes is common, but it is still a big deal. Two thirds of diabetes patients die prematurely from stroke or heart disease. The life expectancy of a person with diabetes is from five to ten years shorter than other people’s.
DIABETES SOURCES OF HELP
There are a number of excellent organizations that help those with diabetes.
Check out these links:
National Diabetes Education Program
American Diabetes Association
National Institute Of Health Diabetes Source List