We all hear about diabetes all the time - it's practically an epidemic in America, with our sugar-laden, fast food every day diets. But what is it?
Even if you don't have any friends or relatives with diabetes, you probably know that many people with the disease have to take insulin shots. This is because most of the time diabetics either develop a resistance to or stop producing as much insulin, one of the hormones that helps the body convert sugars and starches into energy. Because the body stops producing insulin, the body struggles to process sugar correctly, which means that sometimes blood sugar levels shoot up too high. This becomes even more complicated if the levels aren't managed correctly, because sometimes the disease and its treatments can result in hypoglycemia and worse, which can be extremely dangerous. Diabetes can also lead to heart or nerve damage, blindness, poor circulation and healing, etc.
A normal metabolism functions by having insulin take sugars from the blood to the cells, providing the body with energy and preventing the complications of storing too much glucose in the blood. When the body stops being able to take the insulin where it needs to be, the body can't get the energy it needs, and the risk for heart disease, kidney, nerve, or eye problems increases dramatically as long as too much glucose remains in the blood.
There are different kinds of diabetes. Having "type 1" diabetes means that the body doesn't produce insulin at all. "Type 2" diabetes is the result of an insulin resistance and low levels of insulin production. It's more common than type 1.
The other common type of the disease occurs in expecting mothers. Gestational diabetes affects about 5% of mothers in the later stages of their pregnancy and causes them to become resistant to insulin - which means their blood glucose levels go up and there can be some problems for the baby if it isn't managed correctly. Most of the time, this kind of diabetes goes away after pregnancy. However, the percentage of women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life is high enough for experts to believe that there is a link between the two. Women who develop gestational diabetes should look at their lifestyles and make sure they aren't putting themselves at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes by being overweight, eating too many unhealthy foods or not exercising enough.
In the United States, there are 23.6 million people suffering from diabetes, about 5 million of them don't know it and aren't working to manage the disease. It's important to think about the lifestyle choices you are making. Although we still aren't sure what causes diabetes, we do know that lifestyle can influence your chances of getting it.