Has your doctor told you that you are showing signs of being pre-diabetic? Has someone you love been diagnosed with diabetes? Have you been asked to cook a diabetes-friendly meal or to help someone control his or her diabetes?
If so, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately eight percent of the American population has diabetes. There’s a very good chance that you know someone who has diabetes or will need to take precautions to prevent or manage diabetes at some point in your life.
WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes is a metabolism disorder. It is a medical condition that interferes with the proper metabolism of glucose.
When a healthy person eats food or drinks a beverage containing calories, those calories are broken down into glucose, a form of sugar. The glucose is either used for energy or is stored as fat.
In order for your cells to use the glucose present in your blood stream, you need your body to produce a hormone called insulin. This hormone (insulin) is produced by your pancreas.
People who have diabetes have one of the following problems:
- Their pancreas does not produce enough insulin for their cells to process glucose.
- Their cells do not respond properly to the insulin that is produced or introduced into the body.
There are two main types of diabetes (plus gestational diabetes, which is a temporary medical condition limited to pregnancy). In order to properly treat diabetes, it’s important to understand which type of diabetes a person has. All three types of diabetes can be life threatening if not treated.
WHAT IS DIABETES?
People who have Type I diabetes are dealing with an autoimmune disease. This means their body is actually fighting against itself. Instead of welcoming the production of insulin, a person with Type I diabetes has a self-destructive autoimmune system that is actually attacking the beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. Because of the autoimmune system problem, their pancreas either creates little insulin or no insulin at all.
Anyone who has Type I diabetes needs to take insulin every day to survive. Type I diabetes is far less common than Type II diabetes. Approximately five to ten percent of the people who have diabetes have Type I diabetes. It is also called juvenile diabetes because most people who have it are diagnosed while young.
WHAT IS TYPE II DIABETES?
People with Type II diabetes have a pancreas that produces enough insulin, but for some reason their body cannot use the insulin. This condition is also called insulin resistance. The onset of Type II diabetes is usually gradual because the body slowly stops producing adequate amounts of insulin since the body is not using it anyway. The symptoms build over time as the condition worsens.
Type II is usually preventable, whereas Type I diabetes is usually hereditary or caused by exposure to certain viruses. You might be genetically predisposed to developing Type II diabetes, but you can take action to prevent developing it.
Type II diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes. Approximately 90 to 95 percent of people who have diabetes have Type II diabetes.
RISK FACTORS FOR DIABETES
The only risk factors for Type I diabetes are genetic predisposition and exposure to certain viruses.
The risk factors for Type II diabetes include:
- Age (more prevalent in older people)
- Genetic predisposition
- History of gestational diabetes
- Ethnicity predisposed to developing diabetes (African American, Mexican American, Pacific Islander)
- Physical inactivity
- Yo-Yo dieting (losing and gaining weight)
The greatest risk factors are heredity, inactivity and obesity. Approximately 80 percent of people who are diagnosed with Type II diabetes are overweight. This is good news; it means you can greatly reduce your risk for developing diabetes by controlling your weight and becoming physically active.
SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES
Symptoms of Type I diabetes usually come on strong early in life. Symptoms of Type II diabetes usually build gradually over time. The following are symptoms of both types of diabetes:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Excessive hunger
- Weight loss
- Impaired vision
- Noticeable slowing of healing process, especially of wounds on extremities
If you suspect you or someone you know has diabetes, see a doctor for a fasting blood test or an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The fasting blood test requires you to fast for at least eight hours before having your blood drawn. The OGTT is a blood test conducted after you’ve drank a beverage that contains 75 grams of glucose in water. Both tests produce speedy results and can be easily conducted in your doctor’s office.
The sooner treatment begins, the more manageable the condition will be.
WHAT IS PRE-DIABETES?
Pre-diabetes is a condition where your glucose levels tested high enough to be concerning but not high enough for you to be diagnosed with diabetes. You can be diagnosed in one of two ways – showing that you are impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), dependant on the test used for diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you will most likely develop diabetes within a decade unless you take steps to change your lifestyle in ways that will prevent diabetes.
HOW TO PREVENT CONTRACTING DIABETES
The NIH reports that studies have shown that the following steps can delay or prevent the development of diabetes – even for people who have been determined to be pre-diabetic:
- Lose five to seven percent of your body weight
- Walk thirty minutes a day
- Eat a diet that is high in lean protein and vegetables, but low in fruit and sugar
In fact, diet and exercise are by far the most important and effective ways to prevent diabetes. They are also the two most significant ways to manage diabetes once you’ve contracted it.
HOW IS MEDICATION USED TO TREAT DIABETES?
People who have diabetes are given insulin. You can take insulin through shots, an insulin pen, or an insulin pump. There are different types of insulin, both rapid-acting and slow-acting, which you can use for different situations. You will be taught how to test your blood sugar and respond with appropriate levels of insulin.
You may also end up taking medications to control your blood pressure and cholesterol as part of your diabetes treatment plan, but these drugs are really treating other medical conditions that are common for diabetes patients to have. Controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure will help you deal with the health conditions that often coincide with diabetes.
WHAT LIFESTYLE CHANGES CAN AFFECT DIABETES?
You can make significant headway with diabetes if you choose to live an active lifestyle and eat a diabetic diet. Most diabetics find significant relief if they:
- Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
- Eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains (unprocessed), and meats (preferably pasture raised) and stay away from processed foods, fried foods, high-glycemic fruit and sugar.”
- Exercise daily
If you make these lifestyle changes, you may be able to manage your diabetes without medication. You can also prevent the advancement of the more serious side effects of diabetes if you make these changes.
As you evaluate your lifestyle, you will want to take a serious look at what may happen to you if you don’t exercise daily and eat a diabetic diet. You don’t want to wear out your kidneys or liver; you don’t want to risk developing heart disease or lose your eyesight. Ask your doctor for advice on the best diabetic cookbooks and lifestyle change programs. You can find a good plan that will help you make lasting changes that will vastly improve your health.
COMPLICATIONS OF DIABETES
If diabetes is not treated, people can go into a coma (called diabetic ketoacidosis) and die. It’s very important that diabetics have access to both insulin (to help the body process too much glucose in the blood) and sources of calories (like orange juice or hard candy) for instances when they may have too much insulin.
Diabetes is hard on the body. People who have diabetes may experience any or all of the following if their condition is not well managed:
- Deterioration of eye sight
- Kidney or liver problems or even failure (since the kidneys and liver have to process so much extra glucose)
- Poor circulation
- Heart and lung problems
- Amputation of limbs due to infection or poor circulation
If you know someone who has diabetes, it’s important that you respect their dietary and exercise needs. Do not tempt someone who has diabetes to “cheat” on their diet or compromise on exercise. The most loving thing you can do for a diabetic is to encourage a healthy diet and daily exercise plan.
DEALING WITH DIABETES
While eight out of ten people who are diagnosed with Type II diabetes are overweight, there are still those two out of ten who are not overweight. Take, for instance, Tom Hanks, who was diagnosed at age 57 (in the year 2013) with Type II diabetes. Tom Hanks had gained significant weight for the shooting of A League of Their Own and then lost 50 pounds for the shooting of Castaway. Could yo-yo dieting have put him at risk for developing diabetes? It’s hard to know.
It’s not surprising that Paula Deen has Type II diabetes, but the celebrity chef has taken her diagnosis (at age 64, in 2012) pretty seriously. All that indulgent food is hard on a person’s body, and Deen has made lifestyle changes to accommodate her condition.
Halle Bailey was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at age 22, but it is speculated that she actually has Type II diabetes since she managed to wean herself off insulin and control her condition with diet and exercise.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or suspect you are at risk for developing this health condition, you’ll want to take inspiration from these celebrities. A few lifestyle changes could keep you out of the doctor’s office and extend your life by years.