Because of an unhealthy lifestyle, it’s quite common these days for people to suffer from different kinds of diseases. In some aspects, these diseases can be prevented. However, others would have a higher risk of experiencing disease due to genetics, such as in the case of diabetes.
According to recent reports, there are about 100 million U.S. adults are currently living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. The rate of new diabetes growth remains stable. However, the disease is a persisting health problem, and continues to be among the top 10 causes of death in the world.
Meanwhile, a report in 2015 revealed that about 85.1 million individuals aged 18 years and older have prediabetes. Worse, a large percentage of these individuals are not aware that they have “borderline" glucose level.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has a blood glucose level above the normal. This may be due to inadequate insulin production, incapability of the body’s cells to respond properly to insulin, or both.
There are three significant manifestations of a person who have this condition, and these are referred to as the 3 P’s:
- Polyuria or frequent urination
- Polydipsia or almost unquenchable thirst which lead to more consumption of water
- Polyphagia or the feeling of being hungry frequently.
Blood glucose is the main source of energy that comes from the food that we consume. A hormone called insulin (produced by the pancreas) helps glucose from the food that we eat to get into the cells to be utilized as energy.
In certain individuals, their body does not make enough insulin or does not use insulin well. This makes the glucose remain in the blood and does not reach the cells.
It is unhealthy for glucose to stay in the blood as it can cause medical problems. Take note that diabetes is a condition that could not be cured, but people diagnosed with this particular health condition may be able to manage your diabetes by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Blood Glucose Level
The blood sugar level of an individual with and without diabetes has the following values:
With Diabetes: 80–130 mg/dl (4.5–7.2 mmol/L)
Without Diabetes: 70–99 mg/dl (3.9–5.5 mmol/L)
2 Hours after Meals
With Diabetes: Less than 140 mg/dl (7.8 mmol/L)
Without Diabetes: Less than 180 mg/dl (10.0 mmol/L)
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes may occur as any of these three types:
Type 1 diabetes
This type is sometimes referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes, early-onset diabetes or juvenile diabetes. Individuals who develop this type of diabetes do not produce insulin. Therefore, patients with this condition need to take insulin injections for the rest of their life.
It is not enough that they take insulin as prescribed by their physicians, but they must also ensure that they maintain a proper glucose level by following a special diet along with a regular blood test.
According to a study made between 2001 and 2009, the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes among individuals aged under 20 years old increased by 23%.
Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is developed when the beta cells in the pancreas are gradually damaged, which causes autoimmune destruction. This can be triggered by an environmental factor exposed to individuals who have a genetic susceptibility.
The etiology of Type 1 diabetes is unclear, but they are thought to be a combination of several factors, such as:
- Autoantigens: These are complex of proteins recognized by the immune system of patients suffering from a specific autoimmune disease. When this is activated, the immune response results in beta cell destruction.
- Diet: High nitrates in drinking water and low Vitamin D intake have been linked to the development of Type 1 diabetes.
- Susceptibility genes: These are carried by more than 90% of Type 1 diabetes patients. Sardinians and Scandinavians are more likely to have susceptibility genes.
- Viruses: There are several types of viruses that have been linked to the development of Type 1 diabetes:
- oEpstein-Barr virus
- oRubella virus
Type 2 diabetes
Individuals with Type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin for proper function of the cells in their bodies. Type 2 diabetes is more common than Type 1 diabetes accounting to 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms may somehow be controlled by doing regular exercise, following a healthy diet, losing weight, and continuous monitoring of their blood glucose levels. Conversely, Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease in which patients may end up having to take insulin.
Possible treatments for Type 2 diabetes are:
- DPP-4 inhibitors
- GLP-1 receptor agonists
- Insulin therapy
- SGLT2 inhibitors
Metformin is the usual first medication prescribed for Type 2 diabetes.
There is a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in individuals who are overweight and obese compared to those who regularly maintain a healthy body weight. This is due to the release of chemicals that can disrupt the body’s metabolic and cardiovascular systems.
Being physically inactive, consuming foods with empty calories and being overweight puts one at a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to a study, drinking one can of soda per day increases the risk by 22%.
It is more likely for people with Middle Eastern, African, or South Asian descents to have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The low testosterone levels of men have been found to have a higher risk of developing the condition. Researchers say that such low levels of testosterone are linked to insulin resistance.
The risk is also greater as people get older. This may be due to being less active, thus we tend to put on more weight.
Warning Signs of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes complications include:
- Decreased vision
- Frequent yeast infections
- Itching of the skin (usually around the vaginal or groin area)
- Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
- Recent weight gain
- Slow-healing sores or cuts
- Velvety dark skin changes of the neck, armpit, and groin, called acanthosis nigricans
Gestational diabetes is the type of diabetes that occurs in pregnant women. This may be caused by the hormone that is blocking the insulin in the mother’s body. When this happens, glucose remains in the blood which is incapable of changing it into energy.
As a result, the mother may need up to three times as much as insulin in her body to keep her healthy. This condition is called hyperglycemia.
Effect of Gestational Diabetes on the Baby
Some medical conditions that develop during pregnancy may cause physical deformities and may lead to mental disorders. However, since gestational diabetes affects the mother usually during the last trimester of pregnancy, it does not cause the kinds of birth defects that are commonly linked to other types of diseases. But just the same, poorly controlled or untreated gestational diabetes can cause harm to the baby.
When the pancreas overworks to be able to produce insulin, it is incapable of generating enough to lower the blood glucose level. Glucose and other nutrients are able to cross the placenta that can cause the baby’s pancreas to make insulin to get rid of the blood glucose. This causes the baby to grow and develop extra energy, which gets stored as fat.
You may have seen how some babies were born with an extremely high birth weight. This may be due to having macrosomia. Babies with this condition may encounter health problems, such as damage to their shoulders during birth (normal delivery). Despite the enormous weight that is untypical for a newborn, these babies may have very low blood glucose levels at birth and may also suffer from breathing problems. These babies also have higher risks of becoming obese and developing Type 2 diabetes.
In this respect, although pregnant women need more food to sustain their health as well as their babies’, it is no excuse to consume too much food. Especially when the food has too much fat or cholesterol, the risk of developing gestational diabetes is increased.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
It is significant to know the warning signs of diabetes so that treatment can be given immediately. The signs and symptoms of diabetes include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Diabetic coma (loss of consciousness)
- Dry mouth
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Frequent urination or urine infections
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Increased thirst
- Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
Hypoglycemia and Diabetes
Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar occurs when the level of glucose in the blood drops too low to change to energy. It is, however, not a disease but a condition that results from a variety of causes.
Hypoglycemia is a common complication of diabetes treatment. This happens when an individual takes too much insulin or other medications for diabetes or simply by delaying or skipping a meal. It can also be a result of taking some other medications, diseases or too much activity.
This condition may cause a rapid heartbeat, a nervous feeling, nausea, mood changes, difficulty walking, and blurred vision. Severe hypoglycemia may also lead to loss of consciousness, seizures, and coma. This can also be fatal.
How is Diabetes Diagnosed?
A home test kit may be used to determine the presence of glucose in the urine. A blood test to determine the glucose level in your blood would be the best way to confirm if you are suffering from diabetes.
There are other home test kits that can determine certain diseases linked to diabetes. Knowing the levels of triglycerides, HDL and cholesterol levels are significant to ensure that the blood glucose level is also under control.
Prior to taking the blood glucose test, the individual will be instructed to fast at least 8 hours. No food or water should be taken until the test has been confirmed to have read the correct and accurate blood glucose level.
Diabetes is a condition with an unknown origin. However, a person may be at a greater risk if a family member or a close relative has the same condition. Having an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle is a contributing factor in developing the disease. Therefore, physicians recommend diabetes patients to be careful in choosing the food that they eat and to control the portions of food every meal.
It is also essential to incorporate regular exercise. The physician may recommend the use of step counters or pedometers to help patients monitor their physical activities in a day. The goal is to have at least 10,000 steps a day to maintain a healthy body and a good level of blood glucose.
There is no magic formula to treat Type 1 diabetes. However, one can lower the risk and possibly reverse a prediabetes when individuals watch their weight and engage in exercise on a regular basis.
The aim of diabetes treatment is to lower the blood glucose level in the body so that energy is transformed that can help the body function normally.
Understand that there is no cure for diabetes. Once diabetes has been diagnosed, the need to adopt a healthier lifestyle and maintain low blood sugar level is a must.
We can see how much of the population with weight issues has increasingly been overpowered by the different fast food chains that encourage people to buy unhealthy food conveniently. However, despite the convenience that some people may see from these restaurants, they should also consider that it is important to prioritize their health and be able to protect themselves from diseases, particularly heart problems, stroke, kidney problems, and most especially diabetes.