My husband always said that this was a nutritional disease. Just recently we learned that there was sugar in his mother’s blood and we were concerned. She has decided that a change of diet would be the best thing for her. One of my co-workers was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago.
I have heard so much about this disease but still don’t know enough about it so I searched the web for as much information I could find and came across the Women’s Health Gov website which has a diabetes fact sheet with answers to the following questions:
What is diabetes?
Diabetes means that your blood glucose (sugar) is too high. Your blood always has some glucose in it because the body uses glucose for energy; it’s the fuel that keeps you going. But too much glucose in the blood is not good for your health.
Your body changes most of the food you eat into glucose. Your blood takes the glucose to the cells throughout your body. The glucose needs insulin to get into the body’s cells. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas, an organ near the stomach. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood. Insulin helps the glucose from food get into body cells. If your body does not make enough insulin or the insulin does not work right, the glucose can’t get into the cells, so it stays in the blood. This makes your blood glucose level high, causing you to have diabetes.
If not controlled, diabetes can lead to blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations (having a toe or foot removed, for example), and nerve damage. In women, diabetes can cause problems during pregnancy and make it more likely that your baby will be born with birth defects.
Pre-diabetes means your blood glucose is higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range. It also means you are at risk of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is good news though: You can reduce the risk of getting diabetes and even return to normal blood glucose levels with modest weight loss and moderate physical activity. If you are told you have pre-diabetes, have your blood glucose checked again in 1 to 2 years.
The three main types of diabetes are:
- Type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in children and young adults, but it’s a lifelong condition. If you have this type of diabetes, your body does not make insulin, so you must take insulin every day. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin shots or using an insulin pump, making healthy food choices, getting regular physical activity, taking aspirin daily (for many people), and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Type 2 diabetesis the most common type of diabetes — about 9 out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. You can get type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. In type 2 diabetes, your body makes insulin, but the insulin can’t do its job, so glucose is not getting into the cells. Treatment includes taking medicine, making healthy food choices, getting regular physical activity, taking aspirin daily (for many people), and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body generally produces less and less insulin over time. This means that you may need to increase your medications or start using insulin in order to keep your diabetes in good control.
- Gestational (jess-TAY-shun-ul) diabetes occurs during pregnancy. This type of diabetes occurs in about 1 in 20 pregnancies. During pregnancy your body makes hormones that keep insulin from doing its job. To make up for this, your body makes extra insulin. But in some women this extra insulin is not enough, so they get gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away when the pregnancy is over. Women who have had gestational diabetes are very likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
About 24 million Americans have diabetes, about half of whom are women. As many as one quarter do not know they have diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs at about the same rate in men and women, but it is more common in Caucasians than in other ethnic groups.
Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, mainly in people who are overweight. It is more common in African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans/Latinos, and American Indians.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes —The exact causes of both types of diabetes are still not known. For both types, genetic factors make it possible for diabetes to develop. But something in the person’s environment is also needed to trigger the onset of diabetes. With type 1 diabetes, those environmental triggers are unknown. With type 2 diabetes, the exact cause is also unknown, but it is clear that excess weight helps trigger the disease. Most people who get type 2 diabetes are overweight.
Gestational diabetes — Changing hormones and weight gain are part of a healthy pregnancy, but these changes make it hard for your body to keep up with its need for insulin. When that happens, your body doesn’t get the energy it needs from the foods you eat.
Sometimes I worry that I will get diabetes. I don’t exercise as I should. Yesterday I got some as I wandered all over a large shopping mall, looking for a handbag store. I must have burned a lot of calories because I spent almost an hour looking for the store and was starting to believe that it didn’t exist. I eat well. On occasion I treat myself to french fries. I stay away from junk food and sweets. When I was pregnant there was sugar in my blood but everything turned out to be fine afterwards.
Am I at risk for diabetes?
The risk factors for type 1 diabetes are unknown. Things that can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes include:
- Age — being older than 45
- Overweight or obesity
- Family history— having a mother, father, brother, or sister with diabetes
- Race/ethnicity— your family background is African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic-American/Latino, Asian-American/Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian
- Having a baby with a birth weight more than 9 pounds
- Having diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
- High blood pressure— 140/90 mmHg or higher. Both numbers are important. If one or both numbers are usually high, you have high blood pressure.
- High cholesterol— total cholesterol over 240 mg/dL
- Inactivity — exercising less than 3 times a week
- Abnormal results in a prior diabetes test
- Having other health conditions that are linked to problems using insulin, like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Having a history of heart disease or stroke
Should I be tested for diabetes?
If you’re at least 45 years old, you should get tested for diabetes, and then you should be tested again every 3 years. If you’re 45 or older and overweight (Calculate your Body Mass Index ) you may want to get tested more often. If you’re younger than 45, overweight, and have one or more of the risk factors listed in “Am I at Risk for Diabetes?” you should get tested now. Ask your doctor for a blood glucose or A1c test. Your doctor will tell you if you have normal blood glucose (blood sugar), pre-diabetes, or diabetes.
What are the signs of diabetes?
- Being very thirsty
- Urinating a lot
- Feeling very hungry
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying
- Having sores that are slow to heal
- Having dry, itchy skin
- Losing feeling in or having tingling in the hands or feet
- Having blurry vision
- Having more infections than usual
If you exhibit one or more of the above signs, you should see your doctor. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, don’t be discouraged. Many people with diabetes live healthy and full lives. My co-worker doesn’t seem any worse for the wear. She is still upbeat, continuing to do what she loves best–cooking and baking. She and her husband are planning a trip. She is enjoying her life. You can enjoy your life too if you follow your doctor’s instructions and do the following:
- Follow your meal plan— Eat lots of whole grain foods, fruits, and vegetables.
- Get moving — Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:
- 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity
- 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- A combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- Muscle-strengthening activities on 3 days
- Test your blood glucose — Keep track of your blood glucose levels and talk to your doctor about ways to keep your levels on target. Many women report that their blood glucose levels go up or down around their period. If you’re going through menopause, you might also notice your blood glucose levels going up and down.
- Take your diabetes medicine exactly as your doctor tells you.
Find out from your doctor what other things you can do to take good care of yourself. If you have gestational diabetes, don’t worry. Many women with gestational diabetes have had healthy babies. You can keep it in check by limiting your sweets; eating often – three small meals and one to three snacks every day; watching the amounts of carbohydrates you eat and eating lots of whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables. Simply follow the meal plan a dietician or diabetes educator helped you to put together for you and your baby and you will be fine.
Ladies, start taking care of your diabetes so that you can help prevent serious problems with your eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums and teeth, and blood vessels. Don’t let diabetes control you, you control it! And for the rest of us who don’t have diabetes, we need to start eating right and exercising more.