The Nuts and Bolts to Diabetes

According to the 2020 National Diabetes Stats Report, 34.2 million children and adults in the US (10.5% of the population) have diabetes, 26.9 million of which are diagnosed, 7.3 million are undiagnosed.  88 million people in the US have prediabetes.

Diabetes is a lifelong disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy for daily life.  The sugar builds up in the blood and cannot move into cells.  Some of the sugar is filtered out by the kidneys and can be found in the urine.  The cause for diabetes is unknown, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.      

There are several types are of diabetes including: Gestational (during pregnancy) and Secondary (due to other diseases or medications).  The main types are Type 1 (an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas does not produce any insulin and the patient must take daily insulin injections) and Type 2 (a metabolic disorder resulting from the body’s inability to use insulin properly, most patients use oral medications).

Warning Signs of Diabetes

Type 1Type 2
  Frequent Urination  Frequent Urination

Extreme Thirst

Extreme Thirst
  Sudden vision changes  Sudden vision changes
  Drowsiness, lethargy  Drowsiness, lethargy
  Heavy, labored breathing  Decreased healing of wounds
  Stupor, unconsciousness  Dry skin
  Fruity, sweet, or wine-like odor on breath 
  Increased appetite 
  Sudden weight loss     

Factors for greater risk of Type 2 Diabetes include:

  • People over the age of 45
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Low HDL (good cholesterol), high triglycerides, and high LDL (bad cholesterol); and
  • Women who have had gestational diabetes or who have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or greater at birth.

With awareness, education, management, and inspiration, people can avoid the life-threatening complications that can accompany the disease.  These complications include: high blood pressure (~67% of people with diabetes have high blood pressure), heart disease and stroke (people with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have heart disease or suffer from a stroke), blindness (up to 40,000 people lose their sight each year due to diabetes), kidney disease (diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure), and nerve disease and amputations (~60-70% of people with diabetes have nerve damage that can lead to amputations). 

Poor, uncontrolled diabetes can cause people to be out of work and sick for long periods of time.  A healthy diet (low carbohydrate intake), regular exercise activity (30 minutes, about 5 times a week), and awareness of the risk factors and signs of diabetes can help many people at risk or who may already have the disease to manage their diabetes properly.

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