What is Diabetes?
Metabolism is an important part of the digestion process – it’s the function our body uses to turn food into energy. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that disrupts this function. Diabetes is divided into three main types: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Insulin is a hormone that turns sugar, or glucose, into energy by moving it into the cells through the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes means your body isn’t able to create the insulin it needs to create energy from sugar.
When insulin is not created properly, sugar gathers in the blood, which can lead to damaged nerves and blood vessels. If not managed, serious health issues can result.
Type 1 diabetes can be managed with good health practices. Smart food choices and exercise for managing diabetes are mandatory otherwise further health complications will occur.
Possible complications include:
- Kidney malfunction, failure, or disease
- Heart conditions
- High blood pressure
- Nerve damage
- Poor circulation that may lead foot problems or ulcers
- Poor eye health or decreased sight
- Skin problems and infections
- Inflammation or infection in the gums
Type 1 diabetes increases the risk in all of these areas. You can’t eliminate it, but you can take precautions to decrease the chances of these issues occurring.
Eight important steps for managing type 1 diabetes:
- High blood sugar levels can cause damage in your body – they should be monitored closely. Document your numbers daily to keep track of blood sugar levels. Your endocrinologist should offer an A1C test to track blood sugar averages over a three-month period. This will give a better overall picture of how well your diabetes is being managed. If it isn’t offered, ask.
- Those with type 1 diabetes commonly have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Because of this, the risk of heart attack or stroke is also higher. Understanding cholesterol and blood pressure numbers can significantly reduce risks and help you keep them at healthy levels. Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels screened frequently.
- Make changes to daily nutritional habits. Healthy food choices are the smartest way to maintain heart and kidney health. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains for fiber, and good fats. Eliminate processed foods that are high in sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats, and other additives as much as possible.
- Start an exercise routine. Exercise does wonders for good health. Specifically, exercise will increase your body’s strength to fight or prevent additional complications while helping to maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Discuss exercise options with your health care professional to avoid over exerting yourself. Some high impact workouts or heavy lifting may raise blood sugar levels. Get advice from your doctor.
- Type 1 diabetes affects the feet. Foot complications can be avoided by taking care of them. Start by paying close attention. If nerve damage is present, it can cause a tingly sensation or numbness. In some cases, the tissue on your feet can become weakened or even destroyed. It’s critical that you tend to your feet daily. Wear socks that breathe for circulation and choose shoes that fit well. Not wearing shoes at all can cause problems. Often, ulcers are an issue. Be mindful of any cuts, blisters, sores, or any areas of redness – tend to them immediately. Untrimmed nails can cause problems so keep them trimmed. Feet should be kept clean and moisturized daily to remain healthy.
- Practice god oral hygiene. High blood pressure and other common type 1 issues can increase bacteria growth inside your mouth. Increased bacteria are the main cause of plaque build-up and gum disease. Redness, soreness, tenderness, or bleeding may be signs of gingivitis. Floss and brush your teeth twice daily.
- Regular health exams are necessary. Stay on top of all doctor appointments. See an eye doctor yearly. Schedule regular dental check ups, at least twice a year. Include regular visits to your primary care physician for feet examinations and kidney screenings.
- Stop smoking. A cigarette habit is one of the quickest ways to increase risk of diabetic complications. Speak to you health care professional about the safest way to stop smoking. They will offer good advice and may recommend techniques that have worked for other people.
Type 2 Diabetes
Of all the diabetic types, type 2 diabetes is the most common. In fact, 95% of adults with diabetes have type 2, about 26 million adults in the United States.
It was once known as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependant diabetes, but that has since changed. Now, more and more teenagers suffering from obesity are being diagnosed with type 2; since the overweight epidemic in young people began, teenagers who develop type 2 diabetes are more common each year.
Type 2 is a milder form of diabetes than the type 1 variety. However, its is still responsible for many health complications. It increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and causes complications in smaller blood vessels that nourish kidneys, eyes, and the nervous system. In many cases, type 2 diabetes progresses creating a need for medication.
Although the pancreas will still produce some insulin with type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t produce enough to handle the body’s needs or the body resists the insulin produced. The resistance to insulin generally takes place in the liver, muscles, and fatty areas. When insulin is resisted, the pancreas works harder to produce the needed insulin. Still, it cannot produce enough insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Obese individuals, or those more than 20% over ideal body weight, have greater chances of developing type 2 diabetes and its accompanying issues because insulin resistance is more likely to take place when you’re overweight. There is no cure, but it can be managed with a healthy diet, exercise routine, and weight management.
You endocrinologist may administer A1C blood tests to estimate averages of glucose levels over a three month period. This testing is instrumental in monitoring the positive effects of good nutrition, exercise, and medications. It’s common practice to perform A1C testing a few times each year to monitor the progress of managing blood sugar and preventing damage to organs or nerves.
Pregnancy can cause a degree of insulin resistance as well, although minimal. But in some cases, pregnancy can trigger gestational diabetes in the second or third trimester.
The mother’s risks include damage to heart, kidney, eyes, and nerves but the unborn baby is at a much greater risk than the mother is. A mother circulates high blood sugar levels through the placenta that affects the baby. Therefore, if diagnosed, gestational diabetes must be managed carefully to prevent harm to the baby’s development. Some of the risks for the baby involve trouble breathing, unhealthy weight gain after birth and increased risk of obesity as they grow older and greater odds of developing diabetes later in life. If the baby has abnormal weight gain, the mother may require a cesarean section to deliver a larger baby.
The National Institutes of Health report that between 2% and 10% of pregnancies develop gestational diabetes. Once a pregnancy has been carried to term, the gestational diabetes normally ends. However, if diagnosed during pregnancy it increases the chances of the mother developing type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy. Type 2 diabetes can be developed at any period after pregnancy – weeks, months, or years later.
A health care team will work closely with the mother during her pregnancy to treat any issues that may arise. This treatment may include:
- Planning daily meals for adequate nutrition that eliminates excess fat or high-calorie foods
- Creating an exercise routine
- Monitoring weight gain
- Insulin intake if blood sugar levels need to be controlled
Other Types of Diabetes
Other forms of diabetes may develop because of other health issues. These rare cases only account for 1% to 5% of diabetes. Possible conditions that may result in diabetes are pancreatic disease, certain medications, infections, and some surgeries, but they are infrequent.