Diabetes is a Family Affair

Be informed – join Blessed Herbs for Diabetes Awareness Month 2013

Diabetes Awareness Month

This November Blessed Herbs would like to draw our collective attention to one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States – Diabetes. November is Diabetes awareness month, so take a moment and educate yourself as to what diabetes is, how it’s treated, and how you can prevent or live with diabetes post-diagnosis.

Diabetes – Blood and Sugar

Diabetes is a disease (a condition – not a pathogen, germ or virus) where the body cannot properly store and utilize sugar. Inside the body, sugar is called “glucose”. Diabetes is also tied to your body’s production and utilization of Insulin – a hormone that helps you metabolize sugar in food for energy and put it to good use.

Because Diabetes prevents the body from storing or using glucose, it backs up in the bloodstream and your glucose (or “blood sugar”) levels rise to high. There are two main types of Diabetes:

Diabetes Type 1 – Once referred to as Juvenile Onset Diabetes or Insulin-Dependent Diabetes, Diabetes type 1 patients completely stop producing Insulin. This type of Diabetes develops during childhood or your young-adult years – and those suffering from Type 1 Diabetes must take daily insulin injections to survive.

Diabetes Type 2 – Once called Adult-Onset Diabetes or Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes, Diabetes Type 2 patients don’t produce enough insulin or are unable to utilize their body’s insulin stores properly (called insulin resistance). This is the form of diabetes that can be affected by personal, lifestyle and hereditary factors – and while Diabetes Type 2 usually occurs in people over 40 it is becoming more prevalent in adolescents and young people.

Diabetes Risk Factors

There are very few known risk factors for Type 1 Diabetes. Some of the odder facts about Type 1 diabetes: the incidence of Type 1 Diabetes decreases as you travel away from the Equator. Respiratory infections just after birth, being born with jaundice, or having a mother younger than 25 are all associated (but not causal) with the development of Type 1 Diabetes.

Diabetes Type 1 Risk Factors:

  • Family History – risk rises with parents and siblings with Type 1
  • Genetics – certain genes indicate an increased risk of Type 1
  • Viral Exposure – Epstein-Barr, coxsackievirus, mumps, cytomegalovirus
  • Race – Caucasian-ethnic populations have higher rates of Type 1 diagnoses.

Other things to know: an early diet lacking in Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to higher Type 1 Diabetes risk. However, ingesting cow’s milk at a  young age has also been linked to higher diabetes risk – as has the age at which a child is introduced to cereal (3-7 months is optimal timing).

It is important to realize the Diabetes Type 1 is far less associated with environmental, dietary or lifestyle risk factors than Type 2 Diabetes. The true cause of Diabetes Type 1 is unknown. Some of these risk factors may be present in patients Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes – or none at all!

Diabetes Type 2 is also not fully understood – at least why some people develop the disease and others don’t. What is known is that some environmental, lifestyle, and dietary factors greatly increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.

Diabetes Type 2 Risk Factors:

  • Age – your risk increases as you get older because you tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight. This disease is becoming more apparent in adolescents however.
  • Inactivity – The less active you are, the more at-risk you become. Physical activity helps control your weight and uses up glucose as energy; a process that makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
  • Weight – it is fact: the more fatty tissue you have, the more your body’s cells become resistant to insulin.
  • Family History – If you have a parent or sibling diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, then you’re more likely to develop the condition.
  • Race – Again, no one knows why but African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics as well as Asians and Indians are more susceptible to Type 2 Diabetes.
  • High Blood Pressure – Having blood pressure over 140/90mm Hg increases risk.
  • High Triglycerides – Triglycerides (fat carried within the blood stream) above 250 mg/dL increase your risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Abnormal cholesterol – Low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) can increase your risk as well: 35mg/dL or lower.

Diabetes Symptoms

When it comes to Type 2 Diabetes, there are some symptoms to watch for if you think that you exhibit one or more of these risk factors. Keep in mind, sometimes the onset of this disease is so gradual that you do not notice or exhibit any symptoms at all – it is common to live with this disease for years at a time without knowing it.

Diabetes Type 2 Symptoms:

  • Being very thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
  • Frequent skin, bladder or gum infections
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • Extreme or unexplained fatigue

Diabetes Risks

It is possible to live with Diabetes post-diagnosis. However, poorly managed diabetes can lead to a variety of serious and even fatal health conditions. It is important to consult with your health care professional regularly if you think you have or are at risk of developing Diabetes.

Risks of Poorly-Managed Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Blindness
  • Kidney Failure
  • Nerve Damage
  • Amputation
  • Impotence

Managing Diabetes

Once diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, you’ll need to develop a responsible, honest and open relationship with your health care professional or caregiver. You will need to develop a dietary meal plan, because monitoring and controlling food intake is a huge part of managing diabetes.

You should see a diabetes specialist once every 6 months. You may also want to consult a dietician, exercise physiologist and/or a social worker or psychiatrist to help you deal with the physical, nutritional and emotional tolls of dealing with Diabetes, a difficult and chronic illness.

Everyone with Type 1 Diabetes will require insulin injections. Some people diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes may require them as well. Your doctor may put you on medication to help you control your glucose levels or otherwise deal with risk factors associated with Diabetes, or post-diagnosis to help stave off the degenerative effects of Diabetes. And you’ll definitely need to develop a plan for regular exercise.

Life after Prognosis (and a Word on Curing Diabetes)

There are a variety of health aspects you’ll need to pay special attention to when you’re diagnosed with Diabetes – Type 1 or Type 2. If you’d like to know more, visit the American Diabetes Association. They have a huge repository of information, health tips, and educational guides perfect for both you and members of your family, and even suggestions on how to put together the perfect health team to support you as you cope with Diabetes.

There is currently no cure for Diabetes. The best defense that we have currently is to work diligently to stay healthy, drink in moderation, stop smoking, and eat regular, nutritious meals and exercise.

THE GOOD NEWS: These are ALL things you should be doing anyway, and can help prevent a wide variety of negative health conditions other than Diabetes – and even if you never develop Diabetes, these positive health changes will help you live a better quality of life.

Resources:

http://www.diabetes.org

http://www.joslin.org/index.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes/DS01121

 

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