Diabetes is one of the most prominent life-threatening health conditions plaguing the country. As of 2015, almost 35 million Americans already have the disease.
Experts predict that one in three Americans will develop diabetes in the next ten years if the increasing rate continues.
Despite being widely known, not many individuals have a firm grasp of what diabetes actually is. Everyone knows it has something to do with eating too much food containing sugar, but only a few know its real cause, symptoms, types, and most importantly, its prevention.
This National Diabetes Awareness Month, team up with the whole world to build awareness, spread knowledge, and advocate early diagnosis and treatment. To start, here’s everything you need to know about diabetes.
Diabetes Mellitus: What Is It and What Are Its Types?
Diabetes or diabetes mellitus (in medical term) refers to a chronic condition characterized by a higher than average sugar (glucose) level in the blood.
Typically, when a person’s blood sugar level increases, the pancreas automatically releases a hormone called insulin. This hormone is responsible for storing extra sugar in the cells or utilizing it in the form of energy, causing your blood sugar to go back to its normal level.
But with diabetes, there are two possible reasons why your blood sugar levels are through the roof: your pancreas can’t make enough insulin, or your body can’t effectively use the insulin.
According to the CDC, the three main types of diabetes include:
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
- This type of diabetes happens due to the presence of autoantibodies that attack your own pancreas by mistake, impairing its ability to produce insulin.
- It usually presents itself at a very early stage of life (child to teenage years). Still, it can also develop during adulthood if you have a family history of diabetes.
- As of today, there is still no known cure and prevention for type 1 DM. However, doctors prescribe insulin shots or therapy to help you manage it.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
- On the other hand, type 2 diabetes has a well-functioning pancreas that produces sufficient insulin. However, the problem lies in your cell’s resistance to insulin. The cells do not respond to insulin, causing your body to retain a high blood sugar level.
- 90 to 95% of people have type 2 DM, which usually develops during adulthood. Your risk of developing the disease increases due to several factors, such as:
- Sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle
- An underlying medical condition like obesity, hypertension, and high blood pressure.
- Has prediabetes or gestational diabetes
- Has a family history of diabetes
- The disease often has a late onset of symptoms. In most cases, an individual can already have type 2 diabetes but feel absolutely fine on the outside.
- Doctors recommend a significant lifestyle change to manage this condition. They can also prescribe medications that can help you lower your blood sugar level.
- This type of diabetes only occurs in women during pregnancy. It happens when the placenta releases a particular hormone that blocks cells from absorbing insulin, thus spiking up the mother’s blood sugar level.
- Overweight women and those who gain too much weight during pregnancy have an increased risk of getting gestational diabetes.
- The condition usually goes away after the baby’s birth. However, both the mother and the baby now have an increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Doctors manage gestational diabetes through healthy diet and insulin medications.
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can have similar and overlapping symptoms. They only differ at the onset of its development--type 1 starts at childhood while type 2 usually develops in the later stages of life.
To increase diabetes awareness, here are the most commonly manifested signs and symptoms of diabetes:
- High blood sugar level
- Increased hunger, thirst, and urination
- Blurred vision
- Dry skin
- Sores and open wound that heal slowly
- UTI and yeast infection (women)
- Erectile dysfunctions and a decreased libido (men)
Gestational diabetes develops at the 24th to 28th weeks of pregnancy and shows no signs and symptoms. It is essential to get tested for this specific condition so your doctor can plan preventive actions immediately.
How to Prevent Diabetes
The two major types of diabetes may have different causes, but you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 DM or triggering the onset of type 1 DM by leading a healthy lifestyle. This includes:
- Engaging in regular physical activity. Simple aerobic exercises such as walking or jogging every day for 15 to 30 minutes can make a massive difference to your health.
- Cut back on sugar and refined carbs. Putting too much sugar into your bloodstream can either exhaust your pancreas or cause insulin-resistance to your cells. Regardless, both lead to type 2 diabetes development.
- Regular water intake. Make water your primary source of fluid. Stay away from fruit juices, carbonated, and caffeinated drinks containing added sugars.
- Maintain a healthy weight. An abundance of visceral fat increases cell insulin resistance. So make sure you maintain an average weight by combining exercise and a healthy diet.
- Eat foods high in insoluble fiber. Ensure that each meal contains a good portion of insoluble fiber (wheat bran, nuts, cauliflower, green beans) to prevent your blood sugar from shooting up.
- Quit smoking. Stay off nicotine as they can increase your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
- Follow a healthy meal plan. Stick to fruits, vegetables, and lean meat high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is better to eat homemade or organic meals instead of processed ones.
- Spread diabetes awareness. Do your part in educating everybody regarding diabetes risk and prevention.
Unfortunately, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be passed on to your genes. However, this does not mean that there’s no way to prevent it from developing.
Knowing that you have a high predisposition to the disease means that you should stick to these healthy activities as early as possible. This way, you can prevent triggering its onset or delay its progression.