What is Diabetes?
Medical experts have classified diabetes as the condition that occurs when the body is unable to process or break down the carbohydrates in the body for energy. The carbohydrates, when broken down or processed, is called glucose. This glucose or sugar is what is transferred into the bloodstream which produces energy. Insulin is also needed for this process and the pancreas which is located near the stomach is the organ that produces insulin. The combination of these processes do not happen; either there is the presence of insulin and it is unable to process sugars readily, or not enough production of insulin, which translates into diabetes. Because insulin breaks down the sugar in the blood, if there is a little activity of this process, the excess of sugar present in the blood is what is diagnosed as diabetes.
Risk Factors for Diabetes Include:
i) Overweight or obese
Being overweight or obese substantially increases the risk of developing diabetes, by inhibiting the body’s ability to produce insulin and raising blood pressure. If you are obese, even slight weight loss can help lower your chance of being diagnosed with diabetes.
ii) Having a diabetic relative
There is a genetic component to diabetes, making it more likely that an individual with a close family member who is diabetic will develop diabetes him or herself.
iii) High blood pressure
A blood pressure of 140/90 or worse substantially increases the risk of developing diabetes.
iv) Non‐normal cholesterol
Having an HDL (High-density Lipoprotein) of 35 or lower or triglyceride level of 250 or higher.
v) Physical inactivity
It is recommended that you exercise at least three times a week to lower your risk of developing diabetes.
vi) History of gestational diabetes
Having previously developed gestational diabetes or given birth to a child of over 9 pounds increases one’s risk of developing diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
There are three types of diabetes. Not many people classify the third type as readily in their vocabulary as this does not occur unless under specific conditions. Here are the three types of diabetes classification:
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes
1. What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes is caused by a lack of function of the pancreas. This is when the insulin production by the Pancreas is low or none at all. This condition is classified as an autoimmune disease, and some viruses may have a contributing factor to this condition. For this to occur the pancreas is damaged by the virus eating away the cells in the pancreas thus retards the process of sugar breakdown in the blood. When this happens insulin is absent and so lead to a very concentrated amount of sugar in the blood; this condition can be life-threatening if left untreated. This diabetes is classified as juvenile diabetes or insulin-treated diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is considered to be an inherited or lifestyle disease, which occurs in persons between the ages of 0 – 20 and into adulthood. Because of the symptoms of this disease, it is not curable and scientists are sure with proper control of diet, exercise and sticking to medical advice of the doctor you are able to live a full life.
Genetics of type 1 diabetes is considered to be caused by persons who have family members with this disease; whether siblings or parents. This also occurs because some families are born with a certain gene that is related to this disease occurring.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are slow to detect as related to anything that may be wrong in the body. If you, your child, or anyone close to you is noticed with any or all these symptoms, consult a doctor.
- Constant thirst
- Being hungry continuously
- Passing urine frequently
- Losing weight for no apparent reason
- Feeling fatigued and tired frequently
- Vision is blurry
- Children starting wetting the bed for no reason
- Vaginal yeast infection
- Feeling nauseous and vomiting for no reason
- Belly pain which is unexplained
Treating Type 1 diabetes with insulin is the only way to deal with this disease. Your doctor will determine the best course of treatment, whether by self-injection or the use of a manufactured premeasured device which dispenses the drug. This device is a pen-like device similar to that of an Epi-pen used by persons who suffer from certain allergies. There are other devices which are worn by patients and the drug is dispensed from a small tube when necessary.
2. What is Type 2 Diabetes?
This diabetes is classified as non-insulin diabetes or adult diabetes. Though classified as adult diabetes, this does not mean that children are not prone to this disease. Many children are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and suffer through life as adults.
For type 2 diabetes, your body is unable to utilize insulin as it should. This occurs because the blood has so many carbohydrates in the body and it needs insulin to break it down to make glucose or sugar for energy. For this process to happen, the pancreas which manufactures insulin will overproduce insulin to process the excess amount of carbohydrate in the blood. This process goes against the normal function of the Pancreas and so will not allow the organ to work overtime. When this occurs, the sugar or glucose becomes concentrated in the blood which is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when persons begin experiencing symptoms of frequent urination. This happens because the blood needs to get rid of the excess glucose, and so it comes out as urine. Other symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may not be as noticeable as type 1 diabetes, as they occur slowly. This is why it is called the silent killer. Persons will be diabetic and not know it, so it is important to know your body and get tested even if you experience few of these symptoms. It is believed that over 8 million persons will have diabetes and do not know.
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes
- Excessive thirst
- Passing urine frequently
- Tingling and numbness of fingers and feet
- Feeling irritable and tired
- Blurred vision
- Having cuts that will not heal or is taking too long to heal
- Itching in the genital area both male and female
- In women develop yeast infections frequently
- Unknown or unplanned weight loss
3. What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes as the name suggests occurs during the gestation period of a pregnant mother. As diabetes suggests, the blood sugar levels are high and can affect the health of not only the mother but the unborn baby as well. For a pregnant mother to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes this is a worrying time. If the woman was not diabetic before, then chances are after birth they will not have the diabetic symptoms. Some women, when diagnosed with gestational diabetes, after giving birth, will develop type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs with the same symptoms as diabetes and treatment is the same. Eating healthy, plenty of exercise, and based on the control, some mothers may have to be on medication throughout the pregnancy. Ensuring blood sugar levels are kept under control will aid mother and baby to have a safe delivery, and also be in good health after.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes
Diabetes occurs by slow progression, and because it is more a metabolic disease will take a long time to be detected. So is gestational diabetes; doctors have decided to do general diabetic tests on all pregnant mothers as early screening. This will help if the possibility for gestational diabetes to be detected and early treatment can begin. Women who had gestational diabetes in their first pregnancy will expect to develop this in their other pregnancies. Some women who have this propensity in their family should expect the probability of this disease occurring with them.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes are similar to type 2 diabetes. They have increased the need to pass urine, Feeling thirsty frequently, and being hungry more often than most times. Though these symptoms are similar to all pregnancies, the chance of having developed gestational diabetes may also be the cause, so your doctor will do a diabetes test to rule out the possibility.
Testing for Gestational Diabetes
Having a gestational diabetes test done is usually between your 24- 28 weeks of pregnancy. Firstly you will be given a glucose challenge test, which means you will be given a drink of very concentrated glucose mixture to drink. After one hour, the lab technician will take a sample of your blood for testing. Having a reading of blood glucose levels of 130-140 mg/dl or milligrams per deciliter is considered normal. If the results show your blood glucose levels to be above this figure you will be given a glucose tolerance test.
Having a glucose tolerance test done to diagnose gestational diabetes requires your fasting overnight for eight hours. The next day the lab technician will test your blood; then you will be given another sweet drink to drink. After an hour, the technician will test samples of your blood every hour on the hour for three hours. If at least two blood samples tested by the technician shows readings higher than normal, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Having being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor will begin all necessary treatments to ensure safety for you and your baby. A dietitian, an endocrinologist, and or a diabetic expert may be needed to help in treatment. How your doctor requires and recommends treatment for your gestational diabetes it is important you follow the treatment.
What is Prediabetes?
Prediabetes is diagnosed with borderline blood glucose levels; meaning your blood glucose levels are not fully diabetic range but a little higher than the normal range. If this diagnosis is the case you will need to make a few lifestyle changes to get your blood sugar levels under control with the hope of not being diagnosed as fully diabetic.
As many diabetics are advised by their doctors to get plenty of exercises, eat healthier meals and practice proper weight control, especially if you are obese. Help with maintaining these major areas of your life you may need to engage a dietitian along with going to the gym. Some persons will just enroll into a fully loaded fitness center and have all areas covered to control their prediabetes.
Testing for Diabetes
Testing for type 1 and type 2 diabetes entails persons doing fasting tests to determine the blood glucose or blood sugar levels in their body. Based on the above-mentioned symptoms, persons may experience them, and so testing for diabetes is generally the prescribed route to determine the true diagnosis. The fasting test is the preferred test used by many doctors to diagnose diabetes. This is not only less expensive but will give a more accurate result for the patient.
Persons doing the fasting test to diagnose diabetes will be asked to not eat for about eight hours. When you go to the doctor’s’ office or a lab your blood will be drawn and sent to be tested to determine your blood glucose or blood sugar levels. Results of this test should show your blood sugar count between 70-100 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dl. This reading is for normal persons. For levels above 100 mg/dl, this is worrying for both doctors and patients, as this will render the diagnosis of diabetes to be positive. If the fasting test shows normal levels of 70-100mg/dl and the doctor still suspects the probability of diabetes; then you will be required to do another blood glucose test. This test is called the glucose tolerance test.
Doing the glucose tolerance test for diabetes does not require you to fast. Preparation for this test is quite simple. You are required to eat a balanced meal for three days which is about 150g of carbohydrates daily. Recommended foods are; bread, fruits, cereals, corn, crackers, and highly starchy foods like potatoes, and beans. If you are taking prescription drugs, you must let your doctor know, as they may require stopping taking them during this glucose tolerance test. Do not smoke, eat, drink or exercise for at least eight hours before the first sample of blood is taken. The test may last up to four hours, and you must not eat. Drinking water may be the only thing you can do. The less activity done during these four hours is better, so staying in one place or sitting quietly is recommended.
When doing the test to diagnose diabetes; the lab technician will take a sample of blood and you will be asked to drink a sweet liquid of usually glucose mixture. This drink will be about 75g or 100g. Then blood will be taken once every hour for three hours to determine your blood tolerance to the excessive levels of glucose.
Some persons doing this diabetes test may feel nauseous, and possibly vomit, while some persons may be quite tolerant to having drunk this sickly sweet liquid. It is generally advised to drink the glucose mixture quickly to lessen this sensation. Some persons react very badly to this test and are not able to complete it in one sitting. Blood glucose readings above 100 mg/dl will give the doctors enough information to determine if you are prediabetic or have developed type 2 diabetes.
Having regular screening and tests done yearly by your doctor, and having regular visits just for general health is important. The possibility of diabetes will be caught that much quicker and treatment will begin readily. Neglect of your health is not supposed to be, so visit your doctor and be regular with your checkups.
Dealing after Being Diagnosed with Diabetes
Diagnosis of any disease is very frightening. Persons who have been diagnosed with diabetes find the thought of dealing with this illness very overwhelming. Having a name and a face to go with the symptoms you were experiencing before diagnosis will be a relief, but now the journey of living with diabetes and treating the disease is what is daunting.
First, you need to understand that being diagnosed with diabetes is not a death sentence. Having quality information and following your doctor’s advice about treatment plan is what needs to be done. Engaging a dietitian to help with planning quality, tasty and nutritious meals will certainly take the guess work out of what not to eat. Some persons believe that being diagnosed with diabetes means they need to eliminate certain of their favorite foods from their diet, but this is not so. There only need to be an adjustment in the portions and kinds of caloric content foods to eat.
Because diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease it is important to learn to balance your meals. Daily blood sugar tests must be done to know how well the control of your blood sugar levels is responding to treatment. Diabetics need to make recordings of the blood sugar readings at each time you test the blood. Having a documented chart of readings will help your doctor and dietitian determine how well your diet and treatment with medication is dealing with diabetes.
Exercise is also another factor that is important for treating diabetes. Persons that are obese or have body weight above 200 pounds are prone to be diagnosed with diabetes. Exercise to regulate weight and for general fitness and wellbeing is important. Some persons may find it difficult to motivate them to exercise daily, so going to a gym maybe the only option. Some diabetics will engage a personal fitness trainer; if you can afford one as they are able to work out an exercise plan for you. Walking may be the only form of exercise you need based on your physical potential. Ask your doctor’s advice as to the types of exercise he or she recommends. But bear in mind all diabetics must exercise in order to control their weight which is very important.
Another aspect of being diagnosed with diabetes is to remember if your diabetes is not properly controlled other medical complications will occur. Excess blood glucose present and not attended to will cause heart problems, high blood pressure, if you were not hypertensive before; your kidneys will also become affected. Kidney failure will result and this is also another chronic disease you will not find too welcoming to deal with. Liver failure may be another chronic disease for diabetics who do not follow their doctor’s advice. Eye care is also important as diabetics may lose their site if blood sugar levels are not properly controlled. Some eye disease that may result from diabetes are; cataracts, macular edema, and retinopathy. Taking care with wearing proper shoes, avoiding cuts and bruises, as diabetes will cause numbness in the hands and feet; and you may not be aware of having foreign objects stuck in feet or getting cuts. Persons have been known to have cuts for weeks and because of lack of attention, they lose toes, fingers, or even limbs from infection. Your doctor will check your feet for any possible situations, and you must check periodically also. The control and treatment of diabetes is a team effort, so depending on any one person will certainly have issues missed. Taking your medication, daily exercise, a proper diet, plenty of rest, and working along with all medical personnel will aid in the control of diabetes.
Diabetic Diet- How Important is This?
A diabetic diet is not necessarily only for diabetic patients; this diet is generally a balanced diet for any person who wants to live a healthy life. This diet will enable diabetics though to lower and control their blood glucose levels, lose weight and enhance their energy levels. Many diabetics find it difficult to regulate their meals daily, so it is recommended that you work with your doctor along with a dietitian to learn how to plan healthy meals.
This special diabetic diet is called an MNT or medical nutrition therapy. Simply put, it means you are planning and eating nutritious, healthy and balanced meals that will help to regulate and control your blood sugar levels. Having these meals on time and sticking to them is workable for the best results.
Some diabetic patients believe their diet needs to be restrictive and this is not the case. A diabetic diet contains foods rich in nutrients, low in fats and carbohydrates, high in fiber including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and can be tasty just the same. No longer do you need to stop eating your favorite foods, just in moderation along with a little variation in amounts and calorie counts.
These adjustments in the diet for diabetics do help in the battle to control blood glucose or blood sugar levels. Having a diet high in calories will only cause your blood glucose levels to increase which is not the desired effects you want for your body. Being stubborn and not vigilant with your food consumption will cause other medical complications which may not be tolerable.
Type 2 diabetes requires you engaging a strict diabetic diet that will ensure you losing weight, lowering your blood glucose levels, and keeping them in the desired range as recommended by your doctor.
Wholesome foods recommended by the dietitian are as follows:
- Carbohydrates, this is one very concerning for most diabetics. Their recommended food choices are low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, peas, beans, and lentils.
- Fat consumption is controlled by a diabetic consuming what is called “Good Fats” which are olive oil, peanut oil, avocado, pecans, and almonds. The advice given by dietitian is to eat with caution as all fats contain high percentages of calories.
- Heart healthy Fish, which you may think all fish is good; not so, this category of fish is halibut, cod, tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines. Preparation is recommended as steamed, baked, grilled not fried.
- Dietitians recommend for diabetics to avoid foods rich in Trans’ fats, Saturated fats, Cholesterol and Sodium as much as possible. These foods can be eaten but in small portions of no more than 7% of Saturated fats; Cholesterol intake should be 300 mg per day, and these foods are egg yolks, liver, shellfish. Consumption of high percentage of dairy foods with high content of animal fats must be avoided. Trans’ fats like margarine, shortening, baked foods, and snacks must be eliminated from the diabetics’ diet.
A Simple Meal for diabetics as recommended is:
1 cup Skimmed Milk
1 Small Orange
1 cup Cheerio Cereal
- Morning Snack:
1 cup Cantaloupe Melon
Grilled Shrimp Skewers over White Bean Salad
1 Small Whole Wheat Pita Bread (small)
1 cup Skimmed Milk
1 Fudgsicle, no sugar added
- Afternoon Snack:
2 Tablespoon Prepared Hummus
3 Ounces Celery Sticks
½ cup Cooked Brown Rice
North African Spiced Carrots
Tomato-Herbed Marinated Flank Steak
½ Banana (small)
Diabetes Medications and Treatments
Being diagnosed with diabetes is not the end of the world. Millions of people worldwide have been diagnosed with this disease and are living full, happy and healthy lives. This does not mean being diabetic is not a condition to take seriously. Not at all; it simply means that with effort on your part and following the treatment between your doctor and your dietitian life will be better.
Medications are needed for treating diabetes, and there are many on the market. Some persons need insulin to help control their blood glucose levels while depending on the severity or level of blood sugar you have been diagnosed, treatment is given. Medications come with a certain cost factor, as diabetes is expensive to treat. Your doctor will recommend certain medications for your diabetes and between you and your doctor working out the best treatment while being able to afford the medication is important. Your healthcare provider or medical insurance will help to alleviate some financial concerns, and so being a member of one such institution is necessary. If you are not registered as a member of any medical institution, then now is the time to become. Diabetes treatment requires a commitment that will seem very overwhelming and the cost factor is generally most of the patients concerns.
Recommended medications to treat your diabetes, in order to understand the many benefits will require you understanding how they work. Using Google; which is your friend, will give you a plethora of information that will enable you to make informed choices. Your treatment for diabetes is a two-way street and decisions are better made between you and your doctor.