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Diabetes is a disease that affects your body’s ability to regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels. There are several types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes. Previously referred to as juvenile diabetes because of its tendency to develop during childhood or adolescence, type 1 diabetes can actually develop at any age. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that allows for the movement of sugar (food) into the body’s cells, resulting in dangerously high levels of glucose in the blood that the body cannot convert into energy. This is thought to be caused by the body’s immune cells mistakenly attacking and destroying the insulin-producing islet cells of the pancreas, though research on the exact cause is still ongoing. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation reports that as many as three million American have type 1 diabetes. The number of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the U.S. each year is more than 15,000. Of the people in the U.S. who are living with type 1 diabetes, 85% are adults and 15% are children. The prevalence of type 1 diabetes in children and teens between 2001 and 2009 increased by 23%.
Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes typically develops later in life, which is why it was once referred to as adult-onset diabetes. It is thought to be caused by either insufficient insulin production (like type 1 diabetes) or by the body resisting the effects of insulin. Without proper treatment, patients with type 2 diabetes suffer the side effects of high blood sugar, like fatigue and increased hunger, thirst, and urination. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 10 American adults has type 2 diabetes. For people 65 and older, the rate is one in four. An estimated seven million people with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed. From 2008 to 2009, 22% of American children and teens were reported to have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a growing health concern in America. The American Diabetes Association reports that the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. increased by 128% from 1988 to 2008, and it is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans will have type 2 diabetes by 2050.
Gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy that make the body more insulin intolerable. If left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause serious complications for both mother and child. It typically develops around 24 weeks and goes away after giving birth, though women with gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, reported rates of gestational diabetes range from 2% to 10% of pregnancies. In most cases, symptoms of gestational diabetes disappear immediately after pregnancy – only 5 to 10% of women with gestational diabetes remain diabetic (typically type 2 diabetics). However, gestational diabetes does raise the risk of developing diabetes in later years. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35% to 60% chance of developing diabetes in the next 10–20 years. Recently implemented diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes will increase the proportion of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Using these new diagnostic criteria, an international, multi-center study of gestational diabetes found that gestational diabetes actually affects 18% of pregnancies.
Lowered insulin levels are the underlying cause of all diabetes. Insulin is produced by the islet cells of the pancreas, which then circulate it to your body via the blood stream. In the presence of insulin, glucose (sugar) is able to transfer from the blood stream into the body cells, lowering the blood glucose level and providing the body’s cells with fuel for energy. In diabetic patients, there are several factors that can interfere with this process.
The risk factors for the developing diabetes differ from type to type. Below are the possible risk factors for each type of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes:
Type 2 Diabetes:
Diabetes can be diagnosed by measuring blood glucose levels. Consistently high blood glucose levels, combined with symptoms of fatigue, excessive thirst, and frequent urination indicate the lack of insulin and/or insulin resistance associated with diabetes.
The following tests can be used to determine blood glucose levels:
Type 1 Diabetes
The process that destroys insulin-producing cells can take years and may not initially cause any symptoms. Researchers are still investigating what triggers this process, and why it is delayed for some and not for others. Regardless of when the process begins, once insulin production completely stops, type 1 diabetes usually appears suddenly and progresses quickly.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
Type 2 Diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms at first and may not have symptoms for many years.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
Symptoms of gestational diabetes are usually mild and difficult to separate from the usual symptoms of pregnancy.
Possible symptoms of gestational diabetes include:
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and think you may have diabetes, talk to your doctor.
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease for which there is no cure. However, careful monitoring of blood glucose levels and insulin injections can prevent or delay diabetes complications, and most patients with diabetes are able to lead normal, healthy lives. Complications can arise for even the most prudent of diabetes patients, so regular visits to the doctor are recommended. Thanks to advances in research and technology, the prognosis of patients with type 1 diabetes has improved considerably over the last 50 years .
Type 2 diabetes is also a chronic condition for which there is no cure. Many people with type two diabetes benefit from making changes to their diet and exercise routines to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. When type 2 diabetes patients lose fat cells, they become less insulin resistant and can better control their blood sugar level. The American Diabetes Association reports that losing just 10 to 15 pounds can improve blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Gestational diabetes typically goes away after giving birth, though mothers who have had gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
When you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you are helping to control your diabetes.
Here are eight tips for living well with diabetes:
Screening efforts for diabetes are most often directed at type 2 diabetes, as it is the most common form of diabetes. Lifestyle changes like a healthier diet and more frequent exercise can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and lessen the severity of the symptoms if they do develop. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends routine screening for type 2 diabetes beginning at age 45 for all patients, and before age 45 for those who are overweight or may be at risk. Doctors will often declare patients as pre-diabetics or as having borderline diabetes, which both indicate a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
Patients are said to be at risk of pre-diabetes or borderline diabetic if they fit several of the following criteria:
Patients with pre-diabetes or at risk of pre-diabetes are encouraged to eat healthier, exercise, and lose weight in order to lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For those at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, preventative medications may be prescribed.
Screening for type 1 diabetes is not a regular practice, as the symptoms present themselves rapidly and the disease is usually diagnosed and treated soon after symptoms appear.
Screening for gestational diabetes is highly recommended. Your OB/GYN or midwife will most likely ask you questions about your family history and lifestyle to determine if you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes.
There are no proven ways to prevent type 1 diabetes, however with proper attention to your condition and blood glucose levels, you should be able to prevent the symptoms from interfering with daily life.
Type 2 Diabetes
Even if you have type 2 diabetes in your family, the following healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent you from getting the disease:
Though many of the risk factors for gestational diabetes are unpredictable, you can do your best to eat healthy, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and get plenty of sleep to boost your overall health and lower your risk of any type of diabetes.
Visit your doctor for regular check-ups, and ask your OB/GYN about what you can do to lower your risk of gestational diabetes if you are pregnant. With the right awareness, you should be able to keep yourself healthy, even if you are diagnosed with diabetes.
The treatment for diabetes can vary from type to type. Below are the main medications for each type of diabetes:
Insulin is the primary medication used to treat type 1 diabetes. Up until the 1980s, medical grade insulin was made from purified pig or cow insulin. Today, medical grade insulin is made in laboratories using genetic recombinant technology to allow pancreatic cells in laboratory cultures to produce insulin.
There are four different types of insulin that can be taken. These are:
Insulin is administered by injection several times throughout the day so that it can avoid the digestive enzymes of the stomach, which would otherwise destroy it.
Insulin injections come in the form of:
Type 2 Diabetes:
If diet and exercise do not help keep your blood sugar at normal or near-normal levels, your doctor may prescribe medication. Since these drugs help lower your blood sugar levels in different ways, your doctor may have you take more than one drug.
Here, from the American Diabetes Association web site, are the ADAs definitions of the types of medications used to treat diabetes:
If blood sugar cannot be controlled by any of the above medicines, insulin injections may be necessary.
According to the Mayo Clinic, between 10 and 20 percent of women with gestational diabetes need insulin. In addition, some physicians prescribe an oral blood sugar control medication (see the list above). However, other doctors feel that not enough research has been done to confirm that oral drugs are as safe and as effective as injectable insulin for pregnant women with gestational diabetes. If your doctor prescribes an oral medication, you may want to consider getting a second opinion.
Many people with diabetes use combinations of medications and insulin to better control and manage their condition. Your physician and the other members of your care team will help determine what is best for you.
According to The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is no evidence that herbal supplements can help to control diabetes or its complications despite several studies that have attempted to prove their worth.
Herbal supplements that have not yet been proven to be effective are:
Research on several of the above remedies is ongoing as the alternative medicine community searches for effective diabetes treatment methods.
There are several treatments that have been proven to be effective and safe. These include:
Many people with diabetes live happy, healthy lives. In order to keep your symptoms in check and your blood glucose levels within range, follow these tips:
If you suspect that you have diabetes or you find that you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms of diabetes, you should talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to run the proper diagnostic tests and determine whether or not diabetes is causing your symptoms.
If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, call your doctor immediately if:
Call 911 emergency services right away if you have symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) a life-threatening condition that develops when the body is not getting enough insulin. These include:
If you suspect you have diabetes, schedule a visit with your Primary Care Physician (PCP) for a complete physical to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. Your doctor will then give you referrals to specialists. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), your diabetic care team should include a:
If you receive a diabetes diagnosis, you may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
If you suspect you may be at risk for diabetes, you may want to ask the following:
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) its mission is to raise awareness of this growing disease. Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
To learn more about diabetes:
For a directory of doctors and experts:
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