Diabetes is a metabolism disorder. Metabolism is the process the body uses to convert food into energy. All foods consumed are broken down into glucose, commonly known as blood sugar. Insulin, a natural hormone secreted by the pancreas, makes it possible for glucose to nourish the cells for energy and growth. With diabetes, glucose levels in the blood are elevated. This can be caused by poor or no insulin production or cells that don’t properly respond to insulin. Excess glucose is secreted from the body leaving the cells undernourished, deprived of energy and nutrients.
If you have high blood glucose levels, are overweight, have a family history of diabetes, lead a sedentary lifestyle, are over age 45, have high blood pressure, cholesterol or triglycerides, you may be at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Common diabetic symptoms are easy to ignore. People can have diabetes and be completely unaware. Some of the symptoms that can indicate the condition are:
- Frequent urination. If your insulin is ineffective leaving too much sugar in your blood, your kidneys will take water from your bloodstream to dilute the sugar, thereby filling your bladder and leaving the body dehydrated.
- Excess thirst. Frequent urination requires replacement of lost liquid.
- Intense hunger. When your insulin is not working properly, cells are undernourished. Your body reacts by seeking more energy leaving you hungry.
- Weight gain or loss. Weight gain is caused by excessive eating to ease the hunger pangs. Weight loss is attributed to insulin seeking an alternate energy source such as muscle tissue and fat.
- Increased fatigue. Depriving your cells of energy leaves you feeling tired and listless.
- Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet. Too much sugar in the blood can cause nerve damage and can damage the tiny blood vessels that feed those nerves.
- Cuts and bruises that don’t heal properly. Too much glucose undermines the body’s ability to heal itself.
- Blurred vision. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina.
There are many long term complications of uncontrolled diabetes. Diabetes complications can be disabling and even life threatening.
- Cardiovascular disease. Diabetes drastically increases the risk of coronary artery disease leading to heart attacks and stroke.
- Nerve damage. Capillaries that nourish your nerves can be severely damaged by excess sugar.
- Kidney damage. The kidneys filter waste from the bloodstream. Diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels that manage this delicate filtering system.
- Eye damage. Damage to the blood vessels of the retina can lead to blindness and increases the risk of glaucoma and cataracts.
- Foot complications. Nerve damage and poor circulation can lead to severe infections and possible amputations.
Early intervention in prediabetes, the precursor to type 2 diabetes, can sometimes reverse the disease. Once established, diabetes lasts a lifetime. However, it is treatable. Diabetes can be managed through careful diet, exercise, weight control and when necessary, insulin medication.
How can you help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes? Most importantly, a healthy diet, weight management and exercise are keys to prevention.
- Healthy diet means foods that are high in nutrition and fiber, low in animal fats, calories, refined carbohydrates and sweets.
- Physical activity lowers blood sugar levels and increases sensitivity to insulin which means your body needs less insulin to transport sugar to your cells. Exercise raises your HDL cholesterol levels and lowers your LDL cholesterol levels, greatly increasing your overall health.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing 5-10% of your body weight can significantly lower your blood glucose levels, lower your blood pressure, improve your blood fats and give you more energy.
Speak with your doctor before deciding on dietary supplements, especially if you are insulin dependent. These minerals and supplements are thought to be helpful to people with diabetes.
- Chromium, may help control blood glucose levels and aid weight loss.
- Magnesium levels are often low in people who have insulin problems and complications of diabetes.
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can enhance the cell’s glucose absorption, promote eye health and aid peripheral neuropathy.
- Coenzyme Q10 for maintaining healthy cardiovascular function and glycemic support.
Diabetes is a serious disease. It can decrease your life span by 5 – 10 years. Even if you have risk factors for developing the disease, you can still take steps to prevent it. The National Diabetes Education Program states that small changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact on prevention. Setting weight loss goals, adding exercise to your life, eating for health and tracking your progress are changes that can lead to a longer, healthier, rewarding life span