Diabetes

food pyramid

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What is diabetes?

The majority of food that we eat is converted into glucose. The pancreas is responsible for producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin is a necessary hormone in the body that converts sugar, starches and other food into glucose, which is needed daily for energy. Diabetes is a condition that affects the body’s ability to produce and/or accept insulin resulting in high levels of blood glucose. When glucose builds up in the blood stream instead of going into cells, it can lead to severe health complications.

What are the types of diabetes?

Type 1, when the body produces little to no insulin

Type 2, when the body’s cells resist the effects of insulin

Gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy

 

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults (previously known as juvenile diabetes). Diabetics suffering from Type 1 are unable to produce enough insulin because the body’s immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells.5 Insulin is needed for the building and breaking up of tissues in the muscle, liver and fat cells. It’s responsible for the total quantity of protein, and promoting storage for fat.1

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type and it occurs when the insulin created is not properly used in the body. Type 2 diabetes can often improve with regular exercise, healthy diet and weight loss. It is treated with medication, insulin injections, or a combination of both.2

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is only diagnosed in pregnant women. Gestational diabetes causes the body to develop glucose intolerance. Women who develop this type of diabetes during pregnancy can have severe health complications if left untreated, including complications in their fetuses. These women are also at an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.

What are the Symptoms of diabetes?

People with diabetes may experience some of the following symptoms3

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Frequent infections
  • Frequent urination
  • Infections that are slow to heal
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness of hands and feet
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Very dry skin

 

Because of the slow onset of symptoms of this disease it is very important that anyone with the above symptoms consult with their primary care physician.

Who is at Risk for Developing Diabetes?

Diabetes can affect anyone. There are both genetic and environmental components to the development of diabetes. In fact, one in four L.A. County residents 65 or older has diabetes. 7 However, some risk factors include:

  • Family history
  • Gestational Diabetes (prior history)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Race and Ethnicity

Type 2 diabetes has increased in the Latino, African American and Asians/Pacific Islander communities.7

Why is it Important to Get Tested?

Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death in L.A. County. 7 If left untreated diabetes can lead to the following health complications:

  • Amputation
  • Blindness/Eye problems
  • Dental disease
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney disease
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Nervous system disease (such as numbness in legs/arms)

Testing for diabetes can be done in two ways. Your primary care physician can perform either a rapid blood test, which is done with the prick of a finger, or a Hemoglobin A1C test, which is done by drawing blood. The difference is that a Hemoglobin A1C test gives the average blood glucose control for a 3 month period versus taking a quick blood sugar count. Your healthcare provider may also test your kidneys and urine.

Treating diabetes

Diabetic patients must take responsibility for your day-to-day care by partaking in the following activities:

  • Glucose control
  • Blood Pressure Control
  • Cholesterol Control
  • Preventative Care Practices of Eyes, Feet, and Kidney

Diabetics must also schedule regular checkups with your primary care physician to monitor symptoms, blood sugar control, medication compliance/tolerability, and progression. Diabetes is a progressive disease, but symptoms and complications can be delayed with proper control of blood sugar. Your primary care provider is an important partner in managing diabetes. Routine visits and open communication is critical.

How to Lower your Risk

If you or your family members have diabetes, you may be able to prevent or control it if you watch your diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, diabetics also need to monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, because both pose as a major cardiac risk factor.

All diabetics need to carefully monitor their diet. They need to monitor the amount of sugar they ingest in all forms – plain sugar, fruits, starches, and carbohydrates. Diabetics should try to eat fresh vegetables, lean meats and limited amounts of fruit. According to American Diabetes Association food recommendations, a good place to start “is at about 45-60 grams of carbohydrate at a meal.” Depending on your body you may need more or less quantities, consult with your primary care physician on specifics.

Diabetics should exercise to helps control blood sugar. Exercise improves the body’s receptivity to insulin. Maintaining a healthy weight is part of the health plan. Although all diabetics should consult your primary care physician the Center for Disease Control recommends that if “you are not accustomed to physical activity, you may want to start with a little exercise… such as, walking 10 or 20 minutes each day.” 4

Works Cited

  1. Advameg, Inc. (2013). Medical Discoveries. Retrieved February 26, 2013, from Discoveries in Medicine: http://www.discoveriesinmedicine.com/Hu-Mor/Insulin.html
  2. American Diabetes Association. (2013). American Diabetes Association. Retrieved February 21, 2013, from American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012, September 6). Basics About Diabetes. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/consumer/learn.htm
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012, February 2). Be Active. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/consumer/beactive.htm
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2011.pdf
  6. Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology. (2010, November). Trends in Diabetes: A Reversible Public Health Crisis. L.A. Health , p. 6.
  7. Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology. (2012, November). Trends in Diabetes: Time for Action. L.A. Health , p. 6.

 

Additional Resources:

  • American Diabetes Association, Food & Fitness

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/

  • Controle Su Diabetes, Guia para el cuidado de su salud

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/controle.pdf

  • Diabetes Public Health Resource

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/consumer/beactive.htm

  • Top Ten Benefits of Being Active

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/fitness-management/top-10-benefits-of-being.html