Many know it’s serious, widespread and growing in frequency, but few know the facts about the silent killer, diabetes. Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not properly produce or consume insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. Insulin is the key ingredient to “unlocking” the energy from sugars and starches; this basic fuel is what takes the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells.
Diabetes is known to negatively affect the teeth, gums, eyes, nerves, kidneys, and feet. The results of diabetes can be adult blindness, kidney failure, lower limb amputations, heart disease, stroke, and death.
There are three major types of diabetes: Type I diabetes, Type II diabetes and gestational diabetes. Type II diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Ninety to 95 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes will have Type II diabetes. Type II diabetes consists of either a limited production of insulin, or the body’s limited capacity to use insulin.
Although diabetes can affect any age group in any weight range, the most common characteristics among those with Type II diabetes are obesity and old age. Eighty-five percent of those with Type II diabetes are overweight. Additionally, those who have a family history of Type II diabetes are more likely to be at a greater risk than those with no family history of the condition.
The following symptoms are all warning signs for Type II diabetes. If you find a sudden appearance of any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately:
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme fatigue
- Frequent urination
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections
- Slow healing of cuts and bruises
Precautions to Take
Several precautions can be taken to avoid complications from diabetes. Those with diabetes and those who might be at risk for diabetes should adhere to the following plan:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Control your weight
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid smoking
- Watch your feet for repetitive bruising, blistering and cuts
- Have regular checkups with a health technician
- Watch and regulate your blood sugar level.
Why do diabetics regularly test their blood sugar levels? Diabetics and doctors are looking for hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia is when the body’s blood sugar levels are low. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include, shakiness, dizziness, profuse sweating, hunger, and a pale skin tone.
When hypoglycemia is recognized, it usually only takes three glucose tablets or several pieces of candy to replenish the body’s sugar levels. If the body remains in such a condition for long periods of time, then blackouts may occur, and possibly even lead to death if untreated. Hypoglycemia can be induced by too much insulin. If a diabetic passes out from too much insulin, it is important to call for emergency help, inject glucagon, and not inject more insulin or administer food or fluids.
Hyperglycemia, on the other hand, sets in when the body’s sugar levels are too high. This means insulin levels are too low or that the body cannot properly use its insulin. This is a serious condition and should be treated as soon as possible. Some symptoms of hyperglycemia include a clinical finding of high blood sugar, frequent urination and increased thirst. Reducing meal size may help in treating and preventing hyperglycemia. In many cases, exercise can help reduce the blood sugar level. If neither diet nor exercise is working, then a change in medication from your doctor may be in order.
Preventing and Managing Diabetes
There are several dietary things you can do to both manage diabetes and prevent it if you are at risk:
- Maintain a diet low in both saturated and total fat and consume moderate amounts of sodium and sugar
- Eat five or more fruits and vegetables every day
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than larger, less frequent meals
- Choose whole grains vs. processed grain products
- Eliminate alcohol consumption
- Limiting simple carbohydrates and simple sugars
- Exercise regularly to maintain a normal weight.
National University of Health Sciences offers services at its Lombard Health Center to help you determine whether you have diabetes, or whether you are at risk of developing diabetes. Exams can identify pre-diabetic conditions, provide early detection of hyperglycemia and diagnose diabetes. NUHS physicians can also provide dietary and nutritional supplement therapies which are very effective for these conditions, and, when necessary, refer patients to a medical doctor for drug therapies. In addition, we provide ongoing monitoring for those who have diabetes as well as those who feel at risk for diabetes. Exercise is also very important, and we help our patients with individualized exercise plans and weight management, which are both key.
For more information on diabetes detection, treatment and prevention, or to schedule a glucose test and risk assessment for diabetes, contact a National University of Health Sciences Whole Health Center.