Diabetes is a disease that is characterized by high blood sugar, or glucose. When someone has the disease, his or her body may not produce enough insulin, or his or her body cannot effectively use its own insulin. These issues cause glucose to saturate the blood, which, left untreated, can lead to the development of dangerous health conditions and even death.
Two of the largest risks associated with diabetes are heart disease and stroke. Other complications include kidney failure, loss of eyesight, and amputation of limbs. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that one third of all Americans will have diabetes by 2050.
There are several types of diabetes, including Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes:
• Type 1 – typically diagnosed in children and young adults; onset can be due to genetic, environmental, or autoimmune risk factors; about five percent of all diagnosed diabetes cases are Type 1
• Type 2 – typically diagnosed in adults; causes aren’t well understood, but may be genetic or relate to diet, high blood pressure, obesity, and inactivity; about 95 percent of all diagnosed diabetes cases are Type 2
• Gestational diabetes – typically develops as a result of pregnancy and can cause health problems during pregnancy for both a mother and child; two to 10 percent of pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes
For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is often referred to as the “silent killer” because individuals with the disease often do not exhibit symptoms, or symptoms may be mild enough that the affected person doesn’t believe them to be serious and simply ignores them. Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes include:
• Increased hunger (even after eating)
• Blurred vision
• Occasional vomiting
• Increased thirst
• Dry mouth
• Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
• Slow-healing sores
• Frequent urination
• Yeast infections
Living with Diabetes
In order to lower high blood sugar, an individual with diabetes must:
• Maintain a healthy diet – This is an especially important part of living day-to-day with diabetes. Individuals should avoid all processed and refined foods, such as white breads, deli or other processed meats, and dairy items. The best foods for a diabetic to eat are those low in fat, sugar, and salt, such as vegetables, beans, fruit, and grains.
Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet can also aid in weight loss, which may even help reverse diabetes. An individual should consult a dietitian if an eating plan is too difficult create or is hard to maintain without being held accountable.
• Exercise regularly – Exercising should become part of every diabetic’s daily life. Not only can it help maintain a healthy weight, but it can also give a diabetic more energy and help his or her insulin more effectively lower blood sugar. Most physicians recommend at least 30 minutes of activity three times a week.
• Take medication – Insulin injections and certain medications in pill form can be used to lower and stabilize blood glucose. Insulin must be injected and is typically administered prior to eating. Diabetics should always confirm their proper medication dosages and schedules with their physicians.
• Test blood sugar – Testing blood glucose levels can help diabetics see how well they are managing the disease and if they are lowering their blood sugar levels. Some individuals’ doctors may recommend testing once a day, while others should test three or four times a day. There are many different types of blood glucose monitoring devices on the market.
Learn More About the Disease
The best way to understand and learn how to manage diabetes is to read information about the disease online and in other resources. Individuals should never be afraid to ask their physicians questions about their overall condition and inquire about any previously untried treatment methods.