Diabetes is a chronic non-communicable disease that causes high blood sugar (blood glucose). The hormone Insulin, made in the pancreas, moves glucose from the bloodstream into brain, muscle and other cells. Glucose comes from the foods you eat and is the main source of fuel or energy so the cells can do their work. If the Insulin machinery is not working properly, glucose levels in the blood remain high and cause damage to the tissues and organs if left untreated.
There are three (3) main types if diabetes we may be familiar with:
Type 1 diabetes called an autoimmune disease, occurs when your immune system which normally protects you, mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. This usually occurs in children and young adults but can appear at any age. Although there are many theories it is still not absolutely certain why this happens so there is no prevention. These persons must take Insulin daily to stay alive.
Type 2 diabetes may be due to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. In this instance, the Insulin which your body makes is either insufficient or inefficient. It can develop at any age even in children but most often develops in middle age or older people. It is the most common type of diabetes and is treated with diet, oral medication or Insulin and is the focus of this article.
Gestational diabetes develops in some women during pregnancy and most of the time goes away after the baby is born but may return later in life as Type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include:
- increased thirst
- blurry vision
- frequent urination
- increased hunger
- extreme fatigue
- numbness and tingling of the feet
- weight loss
- recurrent infections and sores that don’t heal
- decreased sex drive
- erectile dysfunction in males
You are more likely to develop diabetes as you get older; however, in today’s society with the prevalence of fast food, more and more children are obese and your likelihood increases if:
- you have a family history of diabetes
- you are overweight
- if you are not physically active
- you are of Black and Hispanic races
- you have hypertension and high cholesterol
- if you had gestational diabetes among other factors
If you have these symptoms or risk factors it is important to get tested. The sooner you know the sooner intervention measures can begin. The longer you have diabetes which is not treated or is uncontrolled, the more likely you are to develop complications such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney damage, foot damage and many others.
Happily, many people can live comfortably with diabetes but the quality of your life requires that you are proactive and consistent. If you are diabetic, try to remain active – walking, gardening, swimming., maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet with lots of green vegetables, lean protein, controlled fruit portions, nuts and lots of water. Follow up with your doctors so they can regularly check your glucose levels, eyes, heart, kidneys, feet, teeth and so on. Most importantly, take your medications if prescribed.
Living with diabetes can be time consuming, frustrating and overwhelming. Sometimes even when you have done everything right, your glucose levels are still high. A dietitian can help with a meal plan for your budget. Family and friends can lend support and the Diabetes Association is a great network and source of information.
A word of caution: during mango season there is a common misperception among many diabetics that can over indulge in eating all mangoes they crave then “dilute” the sugar concentration in the mangoes by drinking large quantities of water. Diabetes does not work this way!
Be your own advocate, take charge of your health!