Have you been diagnosed with diabetes? Closely monitoring and controlling your blood sugar and committing to eating right while working with your doctor can help you to live a long, healthy life.
Diabetes is a dangerous condition which deserves serious attention if you’ve been diagnosed with it or suspected to be at risk.
Out of all the disorders, diabetes is one of the sneakiest and most destructive. It becomes sneaky because you wouldn’t notice its existence unless you know you’re at risk or checking for signs and worse until your body is already damaged. Almost one-third of people have yet to discover they have diabetes. It becomes destructive because as it is left untreated, it can lead to various serious complications, including heart attack or stroke, continuous pain from degenerated nerves, the need for foot or leg amputations from gangrene, kidney failure, or vision loss from retinopathy. It’s a condition that deserves your serious attention if you’ve been diagnosed with it or knows you’re at risk. On the bright side, working with your doctor or nutritional therapist while closely monitoring and controlling your blood sugar along with committing to eating right and regular exercising, you can likely expect a long healthy life.
What Is Diabetes?
The body’s easiest source of energy to access is glucose, which is a simple sugar created when carbohydrates are broken down during digestion. If things go smoothly, glucose will enter the bloodstream which triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin allows glucose to enter and nourish every cell in the body where it is used as fuel for energy. This energy transfer at the cellular level fuels all of your bodily functions, from thinking to digestion to movement. If you have diabetes, there is a problem with the way your body produces or uses insulin. This can lead to glucose not being able to get into the cells. It then builds up in the bloodstream which leads to the high blood-sugar levels which is not good for the body.
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes where the body is unable to produce any insulin for glucose to enter the body cells. With no insulin, the cells can’t get their energy. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder which no known prevention or cure. It requires treatment with insulin and carefully planned meals.
Type 2 diabetes is when either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells do not react and have become insulin resistant. Some energy may get through to the cells but most of the glucose is blocked and remains in the bloodstream. Treatments can differ, for some people can manage with dietary changes only while others would require medication or insulin treatment.
The third type is gestational diabetes, in which about four percent of pregnant women are affected. This type of diabetes usually disappears after the baby is born. Research suggests that women who had gestational diabetes will have more chances of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
What Affects Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes was previously called adult-onset diabetes however even young children can develop it. The number one risk is being overweight. Other contributors are genetics, age, and lack of exercise. The American Diabetes Association recommends that anyone who is overweight talk to his or her physician to see if testing is appropriate.
There are three tests used to check for diabetes:
A fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) measures blood glucose after not eating anything for at least eight hours. It is quick, convenient, and inexpensive. Normal fasting blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL. If your blood glucose is 126 mg/dL or higher, the test will be repeated. Two readings of 126 mg/dL or higher means a diagnosis of diabetes. If your blood glucose is 100 to 125 mg/dL, your diagnosis is prediabetes.
An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) measures blood glucose after an overnight fast, and again two hours after you drink a high-glucose liquid. This test is more sensitive than an FPG, but it is inconvenient because of the two-hour wait between blood draws. Normal two-hour blood glucose is below 140 mg/dL. If your two-hour blood glucose is 200 mg/dL or higher, the test will be repeated. Two readings of 200 mg/dL or higher means a diagnosis of diabetes. If your two-hour blood glucose is 140 to 199 mg/dL, your diagnosis is prediabetes.
The glycated hemoglobin test also called A1C was recently approved as a third method of diagnosing diabetes. The A1C test is a simple blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over a two to three month period. An A1C reading above 6.5 percent indicates a diabetes diagnosis. This test has many advantages over older tests, which is now considered a “gold standard.”
What Are the Dangers of Prediabetes?
Obviously, the greatest danger of prediabetes is that it can lead to diabetes. Research shows that most people with prediabetes will develop into diabetes in ten years unless they lose at least 5 percent of their body weight, be more active, and change their eating habits.
Prediabetes is also one of the signs of another disorder called metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that, when combined can create a toxic environment in your blood vessels. People are typically diagnosed with metabolic syndrome when they meet at least three of the following conditions: elevated blood pressure (130/85 mmHg or higher), elevated triglycerides (150 mg/dL or higher), low HDL cholesterol (below 50 mg/dL for women, below 40 mg/dL for men), large waist circumference (greater than 35″ for women, greater than 40″ for men), or fasting blood sugar higher than 110 mg/dL. The combination of any three is dangerous, even if the numbers are only slightly out of the normal range. People with metabolic syndrome have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and also type 2 diabetes.
Fortunately, prediabetes doesn’t always develop into diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program, which studied more than 3,000 people with prediabetes, showed that participants who changed their diets, lost weight, and started exercising reduced their risk of developing diabetes by an astounding 58 percent. The risk went down by more than half and without even using drugs. Actually, diet and exercise was more effective than treatment with the medication metformin, which reduced the risk of diabetes by 31 percent.
What Are the Dangers of Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition, you can control it but it will stay for life. The best you can hope for is that it will subside but will still return. You will need to constantly monitor your blood sugars and periodically consult your doctor to check your progress. The A1C test I mentioned earlier as a diagnostic tool is also incredibly useful for tracking how well your sugars are controlled. This test provides a status report on your average blood glucose level over a two- to three-month period. So A1C captures more than your blood sugar reading at the moment your doctor draws blood for the test, it also measures how well you’ve been doing your part in controlling your diabetes.
High A1C levels indicate a high risk of complications from diabetes. To put it simply, uncontrolled blood sugar is dangerous, and the effects of it are systemic. The most common problems faced by people with diabetes are:
Cardiovascular Problems. Having extra blood sugar is harmful to your blood vessels. High levels of glucose form free radicals, these are molecules that damage cellular membranes, including the delicate cell membranes of your blood vessels. The long term effects of the damage done may trigger the immune system to secrete inflammatory chemicals that further attacks the blood vessels. This can lead to a serious cardiovascular problem and may cause a heart attack or stroke.
Eye Diseases. Diabetes increases your risk for cataracts, which clouds the lens of the eye and glaucoma which damages the eye which leads to loss of vision. Furthermore, the uncontrolled blood glucose damages the delicate blood vessels in the retina, which leads to diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in America. Based on studies, retinopathy can be prevented as long as you keep your blood-sugar levels close to normal.
Neuropathy. Continued exposure to high blood glucose leads to degeneration of nerve cells or neuropathy. Furthermore, if the blood vessels that feed the nerves are damaged by diabetes, then those nerves can die. Early nerve damage may cause tingling or numbness, particularly in the feet, and over time may cause pain or large areas of numbness. If nerves die, muscles of the feet or hands can whither. When the nerve damage becomes widespread in the body, it can cause impotence, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, and general weakness. It is very important to take good care of your foot as they usually the first affected. Because the feet are usually affected first, good foot care is critically important.
Learn how food can help manage type 2 diabetes.