What Is Diabetes?

A deeper understanding of what Diabetes is, who it affects, and how it can be maintained

About 422 million people worldwide have diabetes. 1.6 million deaths each year are directly related to diabetes, with most living in low- and middle-income countries. In recent decades, the number of cases and prevalence of diabetes have both steadily increased.

Here we discuss what diabetes is, how you can treat it, and what might happen if you do not treat it. 

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is too high. Glucose in your blood is your primary source of energy, and it is derived from food. A hormone made by the pancreas, insulin, allows glucose from food to enter cells for energy production. Occasionally, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or it doesn’t use insulin well. The glucose remains in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.

When your blood glucose levels are too high, it can pose health risks over time. The good news is that diabetes can be managed, and you can stay healthy despite its lack of a cure.

Different types of Diabetes

Type I Diabetes is when your body does not make enough insulin. Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. This is usually diagnosed in children and young adults but can be present at any age. 

Type II  is when your body does not make enough insulin or does not know how to use it correctly. You can develop type II at any age. This is the most common type of diabetes. 

Gestational Diabetes is when a woman develops diabetes when she is pregnant. However, if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Sometimes diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy is actually type 2 diabetes. 

What Causes Diabetes?

Diabetes is caused by different factors depending on which type you have been diagnosed with.

Type 1 diabetes

Diabetes type 1 is a condition doctors are unsure what causes. Approximately one in four beta cells in the pancreas are mistakenly attacked and destroyed by the immune system.

Genes may play a role in some people. Another possibility is that a virus triggers an immune response.

Type 2 diabetes

The cause of type 2 diabetes is a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. You are also at risk if you are overweight or obese. Your cells become more resistant to the effects of insulin on blood sugar when you carry extra weight, especially in your stomach.

There is a family history of this condition. There is a genetic link among family members that makes them more likely to get type 2 diabetes and to be overweight.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

People who have diabetes might have some or none of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
  • Feeling lethargic a lot of the time
  • Dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Prone to frequent infections

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should go and see your local doctor. If you are able to diagnose the problem early enough, you can treat your symptoms and manage the condition. 

The Risk Factors of Diabetes

Over time, diabetes can lead to other health problems in the long run, such as:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • kidney disease
  • eye problems
  • dental disease
  • nerve damage
  • foot problems

You can take steps to lower your chances of developing these diabetes-related health problems.

How Is Diabetes Diagnosed?

People who have symptoms of diabetes or are at risk for the disease should be tested. Pregnant women are routinely tested for gestational diabetes during their second or third trimester.

Pre-diabetes and diabetes are diagnosed using these blood tests:

  • Blood sugar is measured after fasting for 8 hours using the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test.
  • An A1C test tells you how much blood sugar you have had over the previous three months.

Can You Prevent Diabetes?

The immune system is responsible for causing type I diabetes, so it can’t be prevented. The causes of type II diabetes, such as inherited genes and aging, are also beyond your control.

However, you can control other health factors that are caused by diabetes. Making simple lifestyle and diet changes is a successful diabetes prevention strategy. Preventing type II diabetes can be delayed or prevented by doing a few things if you have prediabetes:

  • Walking or cycling for 150 minutes a week is an excellent aerobic exercise routine.
  • Reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats, as well as refined carbohydrates.
  • Consume more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Consume smaller portions.
  • In case you are overweight or obese, reduce your weight by 7 percent.

Treatment options for Diabetes

There are a few treatment options for diabetes. Treatment does require you and your doctor to keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels. When you pay close attention to your levels, you are able to change your treatment as needed safely. 

Diabetic Drugs

People who have type I tend to have insulin pumps and or injections every day. The person’s levels will depend on how much and how often they have to administer the drug. The patient will administer the insulin themselves and go for frequent testing to ensure they have to get the correct dose. 

Diet and exercise

A low GI diet will help you naturally manage your sugar levels. Regular exercise will help ensure that the rest of your body is healthy to help reduce the risks of other health problems such as heart disease.  

Lifestyle changes 

A positive lifestyle change can help ensure that you live a long and healthier life. Taking care of your teeth will help ensure that you reduce the risk of gum disease. 

Blood sugars can also rise, and insulin sensitivity may be affected by stress. Stress triggers your body’s “fight or flight” response. In other words, it will provide you with enough sugar and fat for energy. 

Final Thoughts 

You cannot control some forms of diabetes, such as type I. While others, such as type II, can be prevented with better food choices, increased activity, and weight loss.

You should talk to your doctor about the potential risks of diabetes. Take a blood sugar test if you’re at risk, and follow your doctor’s instructions for managing your blood sugar. 

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