Diabetes: What Is It and Who Gets It?
Diabetes is a major problem in the developed world, especially among certain ethnic groups. However, many people are unaware of what diabetes is, who gets it, and whether they are at risk.
Diabetes means too much sugar in the blood. Its proper name is diabetes mellitus. The sugar in the diabetic person’s system also comes out in the urine, which diabetics produce a lot of – the ancient Egyptians noticed that the urine of certain people attracted sugar-loving insects like ants.
Type I diabetes runs in families. Type II diabetes can also run in families and affect people who are overweight, sedentary, over the age of 35, or have had gestational diabetes in the past. Diabetes cannot be “caught” because it is not caused by a pathogen.
A healthy lifestyle, according to medical professionals, can prevent or reduce the risk of Type II diabetes. Too much white flour, white sugar, corn syrup, and other refined sugars and grains, according to the theory, cause the pancreas to become exhausted or the body to resist the insulin that is produced.
What Causes Diabetes?
An auto-immune disorder may cause Type I diabetes because the body’s immune system can attack and destroy pancreatic cells inexplicably. There could also be another way that the pancreas is damaged that is not age-related.
Stress and high blood pressure Individuals with high blood pressure are statistically more likely to develop diabetes than those with normal blood pressure, though this has not been proven as a direct cause. Stress as a causal factor is also unproven, but medical professionals believe that prolonged, unrelieved stress increases the risk of diabetes. Trauma or emotional disturbance can sometimes cause stress, making the individual susceptible to developing diabetes.
Types of Diabetes – Know the Difference
Diabetes is classified into two types.
Type I diabetes is most common in people under the age of 25. The pancreas often becomes disabled and no longer produces insulin as a result of an autoimmune problem (the body attacks its own pancreatic cells). Type I tends to run in families and will have long-term consequences for the individual. Throughout the diabetic’s life, insulin and possibly other medications will be required.
This type of diabetes typically develops later in life. Its symptoms are similar to Type I – excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, frequent urination, fatigue, tingling in the extremities, and so on – but, unlike Type I, Type II is often manageable with diet and exercise, especially if detected early. According to some sources, it never truly “goes away,” but the severity varies.
Type II diabetics typically have a working pancreas; it simply does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin that is produced is not processed or recognized by the body (insulin resistance).
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Infants, Children and Adults
Here are a few examples.
- It can be difficult to detect diabetes symptoms in infants. Experts advise keeping an eye out for symptoms of both high and low blood sugar. Diabetes is usually associated with high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), but low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can also be a symptom.
- Low blood sugar babies may tremble, be cranky, or have pale or blue lips and/or fingers. High blood sugar can manifest as dehydration or a baby who appears to need to drink constantly and urinate frequently. Diabetes is also indicated by a sweetish odor in the urine.
- Babies with low blood sugar may tremble, become cranky, or have pale or blue lips and/or fingers. High blood sugar can manifest as dehydration or a baby who appears to need to drink all the time and urinate frequently. Diabetes is also indicated by sweet-smelling urine.
Children with diabetes, like infants, may experience extreme thirst and frequent urination. Despite his or her ravenous hunger, he or she may lose weight; in fact, some sources claim that unexplained weight loss is the number one sign of diabetes in children. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Vision problems, especially blurred vision that comes and goes
- Chronic yeast infections, especially in girls
- Tingling in hands and feet
- Adults, particularly young adults, can develop Type I or juvenile diabetes. Type II diabetes develops later in life and differs from Type I diabetes, but the symptoms are very similar. The following symptoms in adults may indicate diabetes.
- Unexplained weight loss – Adults, in particular, should be warned about this symptom because adults frequently believe that any weight loss is beneficial. This is especially true if their doctor has warned them that being overweight increases their risk of diabetes. However, if the weight loss is unexplained and is accompanied by any of the other symptoms, you should consult your doctor.
- Thirst and urination – Adults with undiagnosed diabetes, like infants and children, are frequently extremely thirsty. And the more you drink, the more urination you have. Diabetes may be to blame if you seem to do nothing but drink and pee and never feel satisfied with your thirst.
- Tingling in the extremities – Adults, like children, may experience tingling in their hands and feet.
Tips for Preventing Diabetes
Many sources suggest that a plant-based diet is important for diabetes prevention. Other foods that may help stabilize blood sugar and keep you from developing type 2 diabetes include:
- Foods high in magnesium, such as black beans, spinach, and almonds, are thought to help prevent diabetes. According to sources, diabetics are frequently magnesium deficient.
- Onions and garlic are both natural blood sugar controllers. Black bean garlic soup or black bean burgers with onions would be delicious!
- Stevia is a very sweet, calorie-free herb; the extract is often sold in grocery stores and health food stores as a sweetener. It may lower blood sugar, too, making it a good choice for those with pre-diabetic conditions or those wishing to prevent the onset of diabetes.
Exercise is important for everyone, but it is especially important for those who want to prevent diabetes. For one thing, vigorous exercise tends to lower blood sugar levels. For another thing, regular and proper exercise usually results in weight loss. Diabetes prevention begins with maintaining healthy body weight.
Stress reduction, whether through stretching, meditation, prayer, or other methods. According to some studies, chronic stress may increase your risk of developing diabetes. Lowering blood pressure may also aid in the prevention of diabetes. These two conditions frequently coexist, and research indicates that high blood pressure may even precipitate the onset of diabetes. Keeping your blood pressure under control is always a good idea, so you really can’t go wrong with this one.
Managing Diabetes with Diet and Exercise
Type II diabetes, in general, is the version of the disease that can be controlled through diet and exercise. However, for those with Type I diabetes, these healthy lifestyle tips may help relieve symptoms and improve disease management. Here are some dietary and exercise tips for diabetes management.
The Right Carbs
Carbohydrates, or carbs, have recently been labeled as “bad.” Carbohydrates, like fat, have good and bad qualities, especially when it comes to diabetes management. Carbohydrates to avoid in general include the following:
- White sugar
- White flour
- White rice
- Fruit juices
- De-germed cornmeal
Carbs to emphasize might include these foods:
- Whole fruits
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Whole cornmeal
Proteins and Carbs
Combining proteins and carbohydrates at meals and snacks can help keep blood sugar levels stable. Here are some examples:
- Whole grain bread with unsweetened nut butter
- Whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese
- Lean turkey breast in a whole wheat pita
- Brown rice and beans
- “Party mix” made from whole grain cereal, peanuts, and pretzels
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Brown rice and broiled salmon
- Whole wheat macaroni and cheese (made with low-fat cheese and skim milk)
While maintaining a healthy weight is important for diabetes management, eating the right kind of fat has its benefits. These healthy fats, when consumed in moderation, can help lower cholesterol and provide other health benefits. Healthy fats can be found in the following foods:
- Fish (especially salmon and Arctic char)
- Olive, safflower, and canola oils
Experts believe that exercise is essential for diabetes management. Strength training, interestingly, has been shown to be especially beneficial to diabetics, producing results that, in some cases, rival medication. Aerobic exercise is also beneficial because it raises the heart rate and burns calories.
The important thing is to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week. This helps you maintain a healthy weight (essential for diabetics and pre-diabetics) and may even reduce stress. Stress has been linked to the emergence of diabetes symptoms.
Treatment Options for Diabetes
Let’s look at some of the diabetes treatment options available.
Those with Type I diabetes must use insulin. This can be accomplished through the administration of a shot by the diabetic (except for small children, whose parents could give the daily shots). An insulin pump, which is located outside the body but connected by a small tube, is another option. The diabetic feeds the pump what he or she eats, and the pump produces the necessary insulin.
Insulin may or may not be required for Type II diabetics. If that is the case, these diabetics have several options. Inhaled or even oral insulin, as well as traditional shots or “pens,” may be prescribed.
Some diabetics take medications in addition to insulin. Some medications, such as Metformin, work by decreasing the amount of glucose produced by the liver, which aids the body’s response to insulin. Others, such as Glipizide and Glimepiride, stimulate the pancreas’ own insulin production. This, of course, lowers blood sugar; however, it is likely that it would only be effective if the pancreas was still functioning somewhat.
DPP-4 inhibitors are the names given to some newer medications. These have an effect on the pancreas by stimulating insulin secretion while decreasing glucagon secretion. Glucagon causes blood sugar to rise.
Some natural substances have been studied for their ability to reduce or stabilize blood sugar levels. Chromium, a mineral found naturally in whole sugar cane, may be deficient in Type II diabetics. Blood sugar levels are said to be stabilized by chromium. Other minerals, herbs, and foods that are said to aid in blood sugar control include:
- Magnesium (diabetics are often found to be deficient in this mineral)
- Essential fatty acids
- Acupuncture has also been explored as an alternative treatment for diabetes.
Diet and exercise are essential for all diabetics, but they are often regarded as “alternative treatments,” owing to the fact that they do not directly involve drugs or conventional therapy. However, exercise and diet are essential for controlling blood sugar levels and maintaining healthy body weight.
How to Recognize and Prevent Complications
Here are some pointers to help you avoid and identify diabetes complications.
There are some specific steps you can take to help avoid and prevent complications.
1. Don’t smoke
One of the worst things a diabetic can do is smoke. To begin with, smoking constricts blood vessels, complicating the already compromised circulation associated with diabetes. Second, smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and even vision problems in diabetics. So quitting smoking (or not starting!) is a good way to avoid these complications.
2. Take your medication regularly
It’s a good idea to take your prescribed medication as directed to keep your body on track. Don’t try to self-medicate. If you want to switch medications or try something new, make sure you do so under the supervision of a doctor.
3. Regular check-ups
Getting regular physicals is important, but so are diabetes-specific check-ups. Your vision, in particular, should be monitored to avoid future vision complications such as glaucoma.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight requires eating a healthy, diabetic-specific diet and getting enough regular exercise. You don’t want to go on a crash diet, but starting with the right foods and activity level is a good place to start.
According to sources, the body parts most affected by diabetes are:
- Heart and blood vessels
The first step toward recognizing any complications in these areas of the body is to look for abnormalities in these areas.
Diabetic neuropathy symptoms include burning and tingling sensations in the hands and feet, sharp nighttime pain, and difficulty walking (nerve damage). Swollen, red feet can also indicate serious nerve problems.
2. Vision problems
If you have blurry vision, sudden vision loss, flashing lights or grey, drifting films across your eyes, this could be a sign of diabetic vision complications. Eye pain and pressure are also symptoms.
3. Kidney complications
Diabetics are more likely to have kidney problems. Fatigue, poor concentration, painful urination, and/or edema (puffy swelling) in the abdomen, around the eyes, or in the ankles and feet are all symptoms of kidney complications.
4. High and low blood sugar
Nausea, extreme fatigue, confusion, emotional imbalance, and ravenous hunger are all symptoms of very low blood sugar. High blood sugar levels can cause excessive thirst, headaches, and frequent urination. High and low blood sugar levels must be addressed right away.
Living with Diabetes – Practical Steps
Joining the diabetes community in your area is one of the most beneficial things you can do. You’ll discover that you’re not alone; you’ll most likely obtain useful information, tips, and literature; and you’ll learn about upcoming events, retreats, and camps.
While regular doctor visits are important, diabetics must ultimately be responsible for their own daily care. You must learn to take your own blood sugar and insulin, and only you will know when something feels “off.” It is up to you to start an exercise routine and eat healthy foods. Learning that you are responsible for managing your diabetes can alleviate some of the stress that comes with the condition.
A plan can help you stay in control of a situation and make the most of parties and holidays. Make a plan for how you’ll handle holiday and party treats ahead of time so you don’t have to think on your feet every time you’re offered a treat.