Diabetes, a disease we hear about all the time, is one of the most widespread diseases today. It affects over 500 million people in the world. Its negative impact can be felt pretty much on all parts of the body known to often cause blindness, heart attacks, kidney failure and even amputation of lower limb.
Although there’s a lot of information on diabetes on the web, I find it to be quite confusing to people who don’t have a history of diabetes in the family.
So, to get a better understanding of it and learn about diabetes symptoms and types, diabetes medication and prevention, we need to break this topic down to a few sections.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that basically affects the way the body breaks down food into energy. If we look at it from a biological perspective, foods that we eat break down into glucose or sugar which then enters the bloodstream.
Here’s when pancreas comes into play to release insulin which acts like a key allowing the blood sugar to enter your body’s cells to be then used as energy. Normally, this is how the process goes.
What diabetes does is it causes one of the two – the body is not able to produce enough insulin or the body is not able to use the insulin it produces. This messes up the entire picture of a healthy functioning of the body.
What are the types of diabete?
There are 3 types of diabetes, and knowing and being able to differentiate among them will help you understand it better. Let’s start with the most widespread type.
Diabetes type 2
Type 2 diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes. The patient is non-insulin-dependent. The issue lies in the body’s inability to effectively use the insulin it produces.
There’s a good explanation why diabetes type 2 is also the most widespread type. It is a direct result of unhealthy life choices (excess body weight and sedentary lifestyle or physical inactivity).
Therefore, it can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle including eating healthy food, being active and keeping weight under control.
Diabetes type 1
Type 1 diabetes is known to affect about 5-10% of patients with diabetes. It is usually diagnosed in the early stages of childhood. The issue with diabetes type 1 lies in the body’s inability to produce insulin. Thought to be the result of an autoimmune reaction, “the body attacks itself by mistake”. There are no known ways to prevent this type of diabetes, and treatment involves taking insulin every day.
Gestational diabetes usually occurs in pregnant women without any diabetes background. It puts the unborn child at higher risk for developing health issues. And the mother will be at a higher risk for developing diabetes type 2 later on in life.
How to manage diabetes?
Diabetes management depends on the type of diabetes and other pre-existing medical conditions. But the main idea is to keep blood sugar levels under control.
Some general diabetes management guidelines include –
Healthy eating. One of the most important aspects of any diabetes management plan is eating healthy. That includes counting carbohydrates (as they’re mostly responsible for blood sugar spikes). In patients with diabetes type 1, their daily insulin intake will depend on the amount of carbs they eat a day.
The daily eating plan should include a mix of starches, fruits, vegetables, good fats and proteins.
Learning portion sizes and avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages are two other important aspects of a healthy eating regime in diabetes patients.
Physical activity. Physical activity is key in managing diabetes effectively. When you exercise, your muscles use sugar to turn it into energy. So, exercising regularly will help use insulin better.
Before engaging in any physical activity, it is highly recommended to talk to a doctor who will check the overall health and prescribe the right type and amount of physical activity.
The doctor will also advise to check blood sugar levels each time before, during and after exercise if the patient is on diabetes medication.
Always carry glucose tablets or glucose snacks in case blood sugar levels drop at any time during the day.
Diabetes medication is prescribed to lower blood sugar levels in more severe cases when none of the above provides enough control. Any insulin or other diabetes medication is subject to doctor’s prescription.
Tips for diabetes prevention
The most widespread type of diabetes, which is type 2 diabetes, makes up for 90% – 95% of all the cases. And it can actually be prevented by sticking to a healthy lifestyle from a younger age.
That includes eating healthy clean produce, feeding your body essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and staying hydrated. This means staying away from processed foods and drinking plenty of water.
Avoiding smoking, alcohol and other substances is of utmost importance as it is engaging in regular physical activities.
Meditation and practicing breathing exercises will help stay away from the mundane stress which inevitably takes a toll on the human body.
From my own experience, I say regular medical check-ups should not be neglected.
Especially as you progress in age, this step is very important. It will help you keep an eye on all the processes inside your body and avoid diabetes including any other health issues related to unhealthy lifestyle choices for the rest of your life.