Diabetes affects millions worldwide which is About 422 million! It’s a topic filled with much information and, sometimes, misunderstanding. For those diagnosed with diabetes, it can be a lot to take in.
However, with the right knowledge and the guidance of a trusted general practitioner, managing diabetes can become a part of everyday life. In this guide, we’ll break down the essentials about diabetes, from its types to its management, to help you navigate this journey with confidence.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that impacts body’s ability to process sugar. This inefficiency results in elevated blood sugar levels, which can have detrimental effects on various body systems.
Types of Diabetes
Here are the primary types –
Type 1 Diabetes
Often diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, this form of diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, individuals with Type 1 Diabetes produce very little to no insulin. Management typically involves insulin therapy.
Type 2 Diabetes
This is the most prevalent form of diabetes. In Type 2 Diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. While it can appear at any age, it’s more commonly diagnosed in adults. Lifestyle factors, including physical activity and diet, play significant roles in managing this type.
This type occurs during pregnancy, when the body can’t produce the insulin needed to meet the increased needs, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. It’s crucial to manage gestational diabetes as it can impact both mother and baby. Often, this form of diabetes goes away after childbirth, but it does increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
While the above are the primary forms, there are rarer types of diabetes, like monogenic diabetes and secondary diabetes, which result from specific genetic mutations or medical conditions, respectively.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of diabetes is the first step toward a diagnosis and early management. While symptoms can vary based on the blood sugar level and the type of diabetes, some common indications include –
- Frequent Urination
- Increased Thirst and Hunger
- Unexplained Weight Loss
- Blurred Vision
- Slow-Healing Sores
- Tingling or Numbness
- Darkened Skin Patches
Risk Factors for Diabetes
While some factors are beyond individual control, being aware of them can prompt regular screening and lifestyle modifications. Here are the primary risk factors –
A family history of diabetes can increase one’s risk. If a parent or sibling has diabetes, the chances are higher for you. Discussing this with your family doctor can provide insights and proactive steps tailored to your health profile.
While type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents, the risk of type 2 diabetes increases with age, especially after 45. However, in recent years, an increasing number of younger people are also being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.
Carrying excess weight, especially in the abdominal area, is a significant risk factor. Fat cells, especially those around the abdomen, make the body more resistant to insulin.
- Sedentary Lifestyle
Physical inactivity can lead to weight gain and increased insulin resistance. Regular physical activity helps control weight and promotes better insulin usage. It’s always a good idea to discuss an exercise regimen with your primary care physician to ensure it’s tailored to your unique health needs.
- Unhealthy Diet
A diet high in processed foods, fats, and sugars while being low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber can contribute to the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Gestational Diabetes
If you developed diabetes while pregnant or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, you’re at increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Women with this condition have a higher risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
People of certain races, including African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian American, are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.
- High Blood Pressure
Having high blood pressure with 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Abnormal Cholesterol Levels
Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides can increase the risk.
This is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet in the diabetic range. Without intervention, prediabetes is likely to become Type 2 Diabetes in 10 years or less.
Diagnosis and Management of Diabetes
1. How is diabetes diagnosed?
It begins with understanding that something’s amiss. A series of tests wait in the wings to pinpoint this unwelcome guest –
- Fasting Blood Sugar Test: After you’ve refrained from eating overnight, a simple blood test can reveal if glucose levels are higher than usual.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): It’s a two-part saga. After fasting, you’re given a sugary drink. Blood tests before and after this drink help ascertain your body’s sugar-processing ability.
- A1C Test: Think of this as a highlight reel of your blood sugar levels over the past three months. No fasting is required, and it provides an average result.
2. What are the different treatment options for diabetes?
Different paths exist for every journey. For diabetes, the road to management varies based on its type and severity. Consulting with your general practitioner can guide you through these options –
- Medication and Insulin Therapy: From pills that help the body use sugar more efficiently to insulin injections that compensate for the body’s lack, there’s a variety of treatments available.
- Transplants: In severe cases, like some instances of Type 1 Diabetes, pancreas or islet cell transplants can be the heroes of the day, though they come with their challenges.
- Bariatric Surgery: For those who has type 2 Diabetes and significant obesity, this surgical option might not only help with weight but also with sugar levels.
3. How do you manage your diabetes at home?
Home isn’t just a haven of comfort but also a place where you can take care of your health –
- Monitor Religiously: Regularly checking blood sugar levels keeps you in the driver’s seat. With modern glucometers, this is a quick and easy ritual.
- Dietary Wisdom: Understanding carbohydrates, embracing whole foods, and bidding adieu to processed sugars can make your kitchen a wellness hub.
- Active Living: Whether it’s dancing to your favorite tune, walking the dog, or practicing yoga, add movement to your daily routine.
- Stress Less, Live More: Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and even laughter can reduce stress, a sneaky sugar level booster.
Healthy Eating for People with Diabetes
1. What Foods to Eat and Avoid
- Eat fresh fruits, whole grains and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
- Avoid sugary beverages, excessive amounts of saturated and trans fats, high-sodium foods, and tobacco.
2. Meal Planning Tips
- Understand carbohydrate counting.
- Stick to regular meal times.
- Prioritize balance in every meal.
3. How to Read Food Labels
Look for total carbohydrates, serving size, and the list of ingredients. Aim for foods with higher dietary fiber and lower added sugars.
Medications for Diabetes
1. Types of Diabetes Medications
These range from insulin injections to oral medications like metformin, sulfonylureas, and DPP-4 inhibitors.
2. How to Take Your Diabetes Medications Correctly
Always follow the doctor’s prescription. Store insulin appropriately and monitor blood sugar levels to ensure the medication’s efficacy.
3. Side Effects of Diabetes Medications and How to Manage Them
Common side effects include hypoglycemia, weight gain, and gastrointestinal problems. Communication with healthcare providers can assist in managing these side effects, and adjustments can be made accordingly.
Navigating diabetes can be challenging, but you’re not alone in this journey. At EraHealth, Our dedicated general practitioner and healthcare professionals stand beside you. We’re more than just a healthcare provider; we’re your partner in crafting a healthier, brighter future. With our expertise and your determination, let’s make your health story one of triumph.