What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a complex health issue whether it is Type 1 or Type 2. Our body needs to use the sugar, or glucose that we get from food for fuel and energy. The pancreas is a long flat abdominal gland that makes an important hormone called insulin. Insulin helps the glucose enter our cells. That is, unless you are diabetic.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition that occurs when the pancreas produces very little, if any insulin. There is no cure at this time.
A Type 2 diabetic has a pancreas that makes some insulin, but the body’s cells do not respond well to it. Type 2 Diabetics are insulin resistant. The pancreas continues to make insulin because the blood sugar (or glucose) levels remain high, but the sugar still does not enter the cells. A pancreas can wear out, and the cell walls throughout the body become stressed.
If your doctor has told you that you are pre-diabetic, it means your blood glucose levels are high and the insulin your pancreas produces is not quite getting the job done. If you take action to make lifestyle changes through diet and exercise, there is a strong chance the pre-diabetic diagnosis can be reversed.
What Do The Symptoms Mean?
It’s not always obvious how diabetes affects the body because sometimes the symptoms are vague or mistaken for some other problem. Diabetes can go undetected for a long time unless a patient communicates their symptoms to their doctor.
The symptoms of diabetes are sending a message:
- Frequent urination: The kidneys are trying to filter extra sugar by pulling water from the blood.
- Increase thirst: It makes sense once you know that water is being pulled into the kidneys.
- Increased appetite: The brain is asking for more fuel. You eat more, but lose weight.
- Weight loss: The cells are not getting energy from the bloodstream, and the body begins to use fat and muscle tissue instead.
- Blurred vision: The high blood sugar pulls fluid from the lenses of the eyes affecting focus. Sometimes blood vessels are weakened.
- Tingling or numbness in toes: Nerve cells in your extremities are not performing well. You may also get blisters or sores without knowing.
- Nausea: It could be from rising and falling glucose levels, medication, or a condition that prevents complete digestion of food in some diabetics
- Sweet smelling breath: The body is using fat for energy and the blood is acidic. This is called ketoacidosis.
- Lethargy: The body is using its limited energy for the critical brain and heart.
Why Is Diabetes Serious?
Diabetes is serious, but why? Many of us know someone who is diabetic and they appear to lead active and healthy lives. It is very important to know that if blood glucose levels are carefully monitored, and can consistently be kept within the normal range, the body can function very well.
When blood sugar is allowed to spike and crash, the cell walls, blood vessels, and nerves become damaged throughout the body. The complications of untreated or poorly managed diabetes can eventually affect all of the body’s organs including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and skin. Heart disease, circulatory problems, renal failure, retina damage, frequent infections, and nerve damage to the skin and extremities can become life threatening.
The onset of complications can be very gradual, and may even seem to be related to normal aging, but they are actually a result of the cells struggling and slowly shutting down.
It is not clear if extra weight causes diabetes, or if someone’s family history, or genetics contributes to both high body weight and diabetes. What matters most is that diabetes is controlled through a regular monitoring of blood glucose levels, eating a healthy diet, exercise, and medication.
Managing weight and eating healthy food is good for everyone, but the consequences of being overweight for diabetics are more serious. This is because cells are already stressed, and adding to their stress with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and belly fat make heart disease the number one complication of diabetes.
People with diabetes have a higher-than-average risk of having a heart attack or stroke. These strike people with diabetes more than twice as often as people without diabetes. Read more.
Is There Good News?
Getting the diagnosis of diabetes can be jarring. You surely will have emotional ups and downs, but you are definitely not alone, and there is help available. Find support forums and communicate often with your medical team. Then create a strong and committed mindset to deal with it.
Having diabetes means that you need to take charge of your blood sugar, and there are no days off. If you know how to do that, managing diabetes will soon become second nature to you, and you’ll be one of the millions with diabetes who refuse to be defeated. You can lead an active life, and by improving your lifestyle, you are likely to feel better than ever!
The best news is that Type 2 Diabetics can slow down, stop, or sometimes reverse their diabetes by changing the way they eat. Exercise also has real benefits for people with diabetes. It can lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, improve your body’s use of insulin, and boost heart health. It may even allow you to take lower doses of your medications.
Make a Plan
- Take your doctor’s advice seriously. Start medication, and don’t stop.
- Learn how and when to measure and adjust your blood sugar.
- If you are overweight, losing just 5% to 7% of your total body weight can make a big difference.
- Start a journal. Track your exercise, eating, and emotions.
Diets for Fast Weight Loss
Eat a diet that focuses on vegetables, whole grains, egg whites, soy products, skinless poultry breasts, fish, shellfish, nonfat dairy foods, and 95% lean meat. Control your portions and especially limit starches, added sugars, and animal fat from meat and dairy foods.
- Never skip a meal. Five 250 calorie meals is ideal.
- Consider natural supplements.
- Balance lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and plant based fats.
- Limit eating fruit high in sugar. No fruit juice.
- Always choose whole (not multi) grains. No white starches.
- Pile on the veggies.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Purge your cupboards. Get healthy snacks.
- Stay busy — you want to eat because you’re hungry, not bored or stressed.
- Eat only from a plate, while seated at a table.
Sneak Exercise Into Your Day
Most experts suggest at least 150 minutes of exercise a week spread out over three days. Remember that all sorts of activities count — playing tennis, walking the dog, running around with the kids, and biking. Splitting your activity into smaller chunks during the day and combining cardio workouts with strength training make it easier. Don’t just sit there when watching TV. Get up and move for every commercial break. Buy a pedometer to keep track of your daily steps and create a playlist where your favorite song is at the end! It doesn’t have to be a chore.
It Goes Without Saying
Do your best to get your rest, stop smoking and limit drinking alcohol for your best health.