According to the World Health Organization or WHO, the rising cases of diabetes have grown rampantly in the last two decades, from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. There are an estimated 422 million cases of diabetes in 2014. The number is expected to rise if people don’t take preventive measures.
Diabetes also caused an estimated 1.6 million deaths in 2016 and 2.2 million deaths caused by high blood glucose in 2012, which makes it the seventh leading cause of death in 2016. Interestingly, almost 50 percent of all deaths attributed to high blood glucose occur before reaching the age of 70. In short, the lifespan of people can be shortened when they’re unable to treat diabetes in its early stages.
You shouldn’t ignore the warning signs of diabetes because this disease can be a serious risk factor for other illnesses such as kidney problems, heart attacks, stroke, amputation in the lower limb, and blindness.
Medically termed as diabetes mellitus, this disease occurs when your body is unable to produce or respond properly to the insulin hormone. This happens in two ways:
The inability of the pancreas to produce insulin
The pancreas is where the beta cells produce insulin to convert sugar into energy.
The pancreas may produce insulin but the cells in your muscles, body fat, and liver fail to recognize the signals that the hormone insulin is sending out.
How the Body Works
The food you eat is the source of fuel for your body. The body won’t function well if it’s low on energy. Once the food you eat or drink enters the body, it’s broken down into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose is what provides your body the energy it needs for proper functioning.
After conversion, the blood vessels and blood carry the sugar to the cells in the muscles and body fat. The muscles use sugar for energy and the body fat stores sugar. It’s here where insulin plays a crucial role. The cells can’t receive sugar without insulin. There should be insulin so that the sugar can go to the cells.
The levels of sugar in the blood will go down once sugar enters the cell. But when it fails to enter, the blood sugar levels will rise resulting in high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. Once your sugar levels are no longer normal, you might experience some, if not all, of the symptoms below:
Symptoms of Diabetes
- You’re thirsty more than usual
- You crave for food even if you’ve just eaten
- Your mouth is dry
- You urinate frequently
- You’re losing weight
- You’re always tired even when you’re not doing intense activity
- Your vision starts to blur
- You feel numbness or tingling sensations in the hands or feet
- Your cut or wound takes a lot of time to heal
- Your skin is dry and itchy
- You often have urinary tract infections
Whenever you notice these symptoms, visit your doctor immediately for the right diagnosis. You may have either of the two types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is when the cells in the pancreas fail to produce the hormone insulin. This type is most common in people below age 30. Treatment can include insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes is when the insulin doesn’t work properly, otherwise known as insulin resistance. This type is common in people over the age of 40. Unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes can be controlled by diet and lifestyle changes. Other treatments also include oral medications or insulin injections.
Another type of diabetes can occur in women who are in gestating conditions or pregnant. This type is called gestational diabetes, a condition when the mother’s blood glucose levels are high because of the developing baby’s increasing glucose needs or the hormonal changes that may affect the function of insulin.
Not all pregnant women are at risk of gestational diabetes. The risk increases when the mother is more than 35 years old, have a family history of diabetes, or has polycystic ovarian syndrome history. But after childbirth, the blood glucose levels can get normal again.
The most common question you might have around diabetes is “What causes it?” Unfortunately, scientists can’t give us an accurate answer. What they can give us are the risk factors associated with diabetes. These are the following:
Risk Factors for Diabetes
- A family history of diabetes
- People with these backgrounds have increased risk: African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian American, Pacific Islander
- Autoimmune disease
- High blood pressure
- Certain medications
- Injury of the pancreas
- low levels of good cholesterol and high levels of fats or triglycerides
- Lack of physical activity
- Lifestyle choices such as smoking
How to Prevent Yourself from Developing Diabetes
Though there are some risk factors you can’t change such as age, genes or race, the choice to maintain healthy blood sugar levels still lie in your hands. It’s all possible when you do these things:
1. Physical exercise
You don’t have to allow aging to prevent you from getting physical if you’re over 40. Gym memberships may no longer work for you but physical activities at home will. You can dance, do gardening work or any yard work, and play with your grandkids or pets. Walking in the early morning provides lots of health benefits as well.
2. Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating can go a long way. This means you have to consider the portion of the meal you want to eat. Smaller portions can guarantee that you’re not eating more than your body needs.
Mindful eating also includes watching what you eat. Gorging more on vegetables and fruits ensures that you’re eating healthy. Additionally, mindful eating helps you maintain a healthy weight and avoid weight gain.
3. Avoid unhealthy foods and drinks
Processed foods and drinks contain tons of added sugar. Limiting or avoiding these foods can help you keep your blood sugar levels in check. It also helps to avoid refined carbs. Refined carbs like white rice, cakes, white bread, and others can increase your sugar levels and are likely to lead to diabetes over time. Also avoid fatty foods, which can increase your triglyceride levels.
4. Have regular check-ups
Though you’re feeling healthy, it pays to visit your doctor regularly, especially when you have the risk factors.