Those of us fortunate enough to avoid the chronic condition of diabetes may be unfamiliar with exactly what diabetes is, how it effects those with the disease and how one might develop diabetes? Hopefully, in this blog, we’ll be able to add some general knowledge and offer a few tips for avoiding at least one, if not two types of diabetes. We’ll also learn something about the causes and treatment of the three primary types of diabetes.
Let’s first talk about the types of diabetes and what causes each:
Type 1 Diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and has been referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes. This type of diabetes is normally diagnosed in children and represents failure of the body (pancreas) to manufacture sufficient insulin to regulate blood sugar. Here, daily injections of insulin are needed to take care of what the body can’t do. The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown but genetics are likely to play a role in the onset of Type 1, as are some viruses and autoimmune conditions. There is no cure for juvenile-onset diabetes. Rather, careful monitoring and treatment of this chronic disease are essential in preventing the life-altering symptoms associated with insufficient blood sugar regulation.
Type 2 Diabetes is far more common than Type 1. Here again, the pancreas fails to produce necessary insulin to control blood sugar (glucose) at a normal level or the body just simply doesn’t respond well to insulin. Insulin resistance is the terminology used to describe the body’s difficulties in metabolizing glucose properly. This diabetic condition is also referred to as adult-onset diabetes or noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), as adults are usually diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Alarmingly however, children are increasingly subject to Type 2 diagnoses, largely due to inadequate nutrition and childhood obesity.
Gestational Diabetes is our third culprit. Women not already diagnosed with diabetes sometimes develop high blood glucose during pregnancy. This condition can result in Type 2 diabetes following their pregnancy. Hormones released during pregnancy may block the action of insulin, increasing the level of glucose in the bloodstream. Factors contributing to gestational diabetes include giving birth to a child over 9 pounds, being overweight during pregnancy and being at an age over 25 while pregnant.
Now we know the types of diabetes and what processes or metabolic failures result in each type. So, what can be done to treat these conditions and how do we avoid diabetes altogether?
Type 1 diabetes sadly can’t be avoided. Maybe one day, science will discover a cure for juvenile-onset diabetes. Until them however, a child or adult suffering from this condition must constantly monitor blood sugar levels, take supplemental insulin by injection or by insulin pump and watch their food intake, especially as it relates to sugars and carbohydrates.
Type 2 diabetes may be a little easier to live with and to treat. While some may be treated with insulin injections or prescription medications, overall health plays a critical role in prevention and treatment of this condition. It is believed that between 80% and 90% of those diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes are overweight. And since 90% of diabetes cases are of the Type 2 variety, it goes to show how important maintaining a healthy weight can be in controlling this particular condition. Diet and exercise are the combat partners in the fight against Type 2 diabetes! Just lowering the intake of saturated fats, trans fats and carbohydrates can vastly improve glucose sugar levels and shave off pounds! Lean meats, including skinless poultry and fish, can be great sources of protein and still limit calories from fat. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always helpful in supplying our bodies with the vitamins and minerals lacking in many American diets. Dietary fiber sources are essential in maintain healthy weight and good digestion.
While some fair sources of dietary fiber come from processed grains, it’s important to keep carbohydrate intake to a minimum. Carbohydrates are quickly converted to glucose and can lead to wild swings in blood sugar. An appropriate exercise regimen is key to maintaining a healthy weight and helping to ward off diabetes! Don’t overdo it but rather start slow and make steady progress toward your goals. What’s your goal, you may ask? What it should be is reaching and maintaining a healthy weight that you are comfortable with and one which lowers your risk of chronic conditions like diabetes. You don’t have to kill yourself to save yourself! Chances are, if you feel healthy, you’ll be healthy!
Gestational diabetes is a disease which is present only through pregnancy. Typically, blood sugar levels return to normal following the pregnancy, with no long-lasting impact on the body. That said, obesity and poor nutrition during pregnancy can not only lead to gestational diabetes but turn into Type 2 diabetes after giving birth. The solution to preventing and treating gestational diabetes is similar to the treatment for Type 2–a healthy diet, exercise and supplements for replacement of essential vitamins and minerals lost during and after pregnancy.
We can’t necessarily avoid diabetes, given our family history and genetics. What we can do however, is do our best to stay healthy by making smart choices in diet, starting and maintaining an exercise regimen and taking daily supplemental vitamins and minerals. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!