What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is becoming an increasingly common disease inflicting Americans, as well as people around the world. Is this something the American nation can rectify, or is this almost completely out of personal control? Diabetes has a reputation for being a sugary, personally inflicted hardship that many people are facing – however this is not always the case.
To make sense of this let’s start with what diabetes is. Diabetes is a disorder of the glucose level in the blood, often referred to as blood sugar. In order for your body to function effectively, it needs glucose in your blood to be transported to your cells and converted into energy, giving the body the ‘steam’ it needs in order to work. Too much glucose in the blood however is bad for you. In a well-functioning body, too much glucose won’t remain in the blood but will rather be transferred to the cells, absorbed or get broken down. The hormone that prevents too much glucose from remaining in the blood is called insulin.
Glucose enters the body via the food you eat, and is also made in your liver and muscles. Your blood carries the glucose to the cells in your body, allowing them the energy they need in order to function effectively. The pancreas creates insulin, which it releases into the blood, helping the glucose to be absorbed into the cells. If your body doesn’t make insulin, or if the insulin is ineffective, the glucose will remain in the blood allowing the ‘sugar’ to be pumped throughout your body rather than being absorbed into the cells, an occurrence known as pre-diabetes or diabetes. There are three main kinds of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. The most spoken about being type 1 and type 2, which both result in a glucose build up in the blood, in effect starving the cells of their much-needed energy source. High blood glucose doesn’t only starve the cells but over time also damages nerves and blood vessels, potentially leading to complications such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections and even amputation as a result of circulatory issues. Type 1 diabetes, often referred to as insulin dependent diabetes, is characterized by your body no longer making insulin or it doesn’t make enough insulin. This is has mostly been researched to be a result of the immune system having attacked and destroyed the insulin-producing cells in the body. To combat this form of diabetes, sufferers need to manually introduce insulin to their body, normally via injection or pump.
Type 2 diabetes, often referred to as non-insulin dependent diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Known mostly for occurring as adult on-set diabetes, although it does occur with children, most often develops in middle-aged and older people. This form of diabetes normally starts as an insulin resistance, a condition that occurs when fat, muscle and liver cells do not use insulin effectively to carry glucose into the body’s cells. As a result the body requires more insulin in order for glucose to enter the cells. The body’s initial reaction is to create more insulin, however over time the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin when blood sugar levels suddenly increase, such as after meal times. When the pancreas is not creating enough insulin to be effective, treatment for type 2 diabetes will begin. The most common treatments are medication as well as decreasing your sugar intake.
Gestational diabetes occurs in some women during the late stages of pregnancy. This form of diabetes is caused by pregnancy hormones or a shortage of insulin. This form of diabetes normally goes away after childbirth, however studies have shown these woman and their children are more susceptible to develop other forms of diabetes later on in life. The reality is that diabetes, mostly type 2, is on the rise. This is the result of bad health choice and the continued high consumption of sugar packed substances. It is quite an easy argument to define type 2 diabetes as a self-inflicted disorder, however many studies have shown that a lot of type 2 diabetes sufferers also have a predisposition to the disease. The most helpful advice for a number of health related issues is to always be conscious of what you eat, how much you eat and how often you eat it. Knowledge and education of your own body will always be an effective tool in remaining healthy and trying to avoid diseases.