Why Should I Care About Diabetes?
- Created on March 8th, 2008
- By Dawn Swidorski
When it comes to diseases, diabetes is one of the nastiest. Poorly managed, diabetes has a host of scary and debilitating conditions that can profoundly affect a person's ability to live a normal life. On average, diabetes reduces life expectancy by 10 - 15 years and causes 215,000 deaths annually. Kidney disease, blindness, greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer's disease and amputations are all complications of diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects 22 million Americans. An additional 54 million Americans are at risk for developing the disease. Some ethnicities are at special risk for developing diabetes.
To understand diabetes it's important to know how your body uses the food you eat. Glucose is a simple sugar, which is your body's prime source of energy. The digestive process turns the meal you just ate into glucose or "blood sugar", which is distributed throughout your body via the bloodstream.
A small amount of glucose is used right away. The rest is stored in the liver and muscles as GLYCOGEN, or as fat to be used later. The normal body maintains a constant amount of sugar in the blood to satisfy the body's energy needs.
The glycogen is turned back into glucose when your body needs it. Insulin, a hormone secreted by the Pancreas, maintains the proper levels of glucose in the body. When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin the result is HyPERglycemia - too high glucose level, or DIABETES.
Diabetes can impact people of any age, from very small children to senior citizens.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body produces no insulin at all or when the body's immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that make the hormone insulin, which regulates glucose.
This type usually strikes children and young adults and accounts for 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases. Along with proper diet and exercise, daily insulin injections are necessary for the diabetic's survival.
Type 2 diabetes usually begins as insulin resistance (when the cells do not use insulin properly). In time the pancreas loses the ability to secrete enough insulin to respond to meals.
Type 2 accounts for 90 - 95% of all cases of diabetes in the United States. People can develop Type 2 diabetes at any age and is being diagnosed more frequently among teenagers and children than ever before. The Centers for Disease Control report that one of every three children born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime!
This type may respond well to lifestyle changes, including proper diet and exercise. Oral medications are now available for treatment, but for more serious cases daily insulin injections may still be necessary.
"Pre-Diabetes" is a term used to distinguish people who are at increased risk of developing diabetes.
Diabetes Can Be Prevented!
GOOD NEWS! We have the ability to profile those individuals who are at higher risk for developing diabetes and take pro-active measures to prevent it. In fact, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented 95% of the time. Lifestyle changes, including more physical activity, weight loss and proper nutrition (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) may prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
This is important, because once you get diabetes there is NO CURE!
According to Andy Mandell - Mr. Diabetes® and Executive Director of Defeat Diabetes Foundation (DDF) "The only thing worse than finding out you have diabetes is NOT finding out!" To learn if you are risk take DDF's online screening test.
What To Do If You Are At Risk.
If the screening test shows that you are at risk for diabetes - don't panic. It can be prevented and/or managed. IMMEDIATELY schedule an appointment with your physician and request an A1C test. This is a simple blood test that can be performed in your doctor's office or lab. It measures your glucose levels over the previous 8-12 weeks and is definitive for determining if you have diabetes.
The progression to diabetes from pre-diabetes is not inevitable. So, follow your doctor's advice. You can also refer to DDF's website for information on warning signs, self management, and helpful links for prescription assistance.
About Mr. Diabetes®
Andrew Mandell, otherwise known as Mr. Diabetes®, is the Executive Director of Defeat Diabetes Foundation. He has dedicated his life to informing and educating the public about taking control of the disease. At 62 years old Andy, a diabetic of 20+ years, insulin dependent, is the sole walker for the Wake Up and Walk® Tour a 10,000+ mile walk of the perimeter of the US. He's been on the road since January of 2002 and has completed 9,000 miles of his walk. You may have seen him walking on state highways and city sidewalks in his brightly colored safety vest and walking pole being followed by an SUV that serves as support. He's walked through 33 states, crossed 80 major rivers, gone through 20 pairs of walking shoes, 4 Tour Managers and walked through 4 time zones (twice!).