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Diabetes: The Silent Killer

February 15, 2018

shalbyhospitals

Endocrinology - Diabetology

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Diabetes is defined as a metabolic disorder wherein the blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, goes high. Blood glucose is your body’s primary source of energy which is derived from the food you eat.

The fuel from food is transported to the different cells in your body by a hormone, named Insulin. This hormone is secreted by the pancreas, the organ located in your abdomen. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough of insulin or the body is not able to use the insulin so produced.

This causes the glucose to accumulate in the blood instead of reaching out to the cells. The accumulation further increases the level of sugar in the blood, causing diabetes.

Diabetes is a persistent disease and as per a research, it is among the leading causes of death in the world. Interestingly, most people don’t even realize that they are suffering from diabetes unless the symptoms aggravate.

As of yet, there is no cure for diabetes. It’s a severe health condition which can affect your body in many ways.

Let us have a look at diabetes in detail and understand the primary causes of it and how you can manage diabetes for better health.

Why is Insulin Important to the Body?

The human body is made of millions of cells which need the energy to function. Cells get the required energy from the food you eat. The food so consumed gets broken down into simple sugar, known as glucose.

This glucose gets transported to the cells via your bloodstream, which is used as energy by the body cells for doing different activities. There is a certain amount of glucose which the cells use and this number is firmly regulated by the hormone, known as insulin - produced by your pancreas. Insulin is released in a very small amount and pancreas will secrete more insulin if the glucose amount in the blood increases to a particular level.

The excess level of glucose is brought down with the help of insulin. To prevent the blood glucose from going low, the body signals you to eat so as to release some glucose.

In case of diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough of insulin or the cells become insulin resistant which increases the level of sugar in the blood.

Types of Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, the treatment plan would depend on the type of diabetes you have. The different diabetes types include:

Type 1 Diabetes

It occurs when the cells of the pancreas (known as beta cells), which produce insulin, get destroyed by your immune system. In type 1 diabetes no insulin is produced and the treatment includes taking insulin injections to control the blood sugar levels. This type of diabetes usually develops in people who are below 20.

Type 2 Diabetes

Contrary to type 1 diabetes, in type 2 diabetes, your body will be able to produce insulin. However, the insulin so secreted will either be insufficient or the body will become resistant to the insulin. It is the most common diabetes type and can be prevented with healthy diet and lifestyle. But if the treatment is delayed or proper care is not taken, it can lead to various complications including non-traumatic amputations, chronic kidney failure, and blindness. Type 2 diabetes mostly occurs after the age of 40 but nowadays changing lifestyle has resulted in children also suffering from type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

This diabetes type gets triggered due to pregnancy. The hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy hamper the functioning of insulin.

Gestational diabetes is more likely to occur in pregnant women who are above 25 years of age, have a family history of diabetes or have above normal weight. The diagnosis is done during pregnancy only and the treatment is planned. If not treated, gestational diabetes can pose a risk to both mother and the unborn child.

The blood sugar levels will become normal around six weeks of delivery. But such women stand at a risk of developing type 2 diabetes in future.

Causes of Diabetes

The causes of diabetes are never same in all cases because they depend on various factors like family history, genes, lifestyle, diet and environmental factors.

Type 1 diabetes is majorly caused because of your immune system destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is an autoimmune disorder as your body’s defense mechanism goes against you.

Some of the triggers of type 1 diabetes include:

  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Unidentified components that cause autoimmune reaction
  • Chemical toxins in food
  • Underlying genetic disposition

There are various factors that lead to type 2 diabetes. The most common factor is a family history of diabetes. Other factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Increasing age
  • Poor diet

Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes can be a major health threat if not treated timely and for the timely treatment, it is important that you monitor the symptoms carefully.

Some of the commonly known symptoms of diabetes include the following:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased hunger (even after eating)
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy breathing
  • Yeast infections
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow-healing of sores or cuts
  • Itching of the skin
  • Recent weight gain
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction

Diagnosing Diabetes

You will be suspected to have diabetes if you show some of the risk factors as associated with diabetes.

The diagnosis of diabetes will include certain tests, which would include:

You will be asked to undergo a fasting glucose test, where the blood sugar is tested as per the level taken in the morning on an empty stomach. If the levels show 126mg/dL or higher levels of sugar then it will be confirmed that you have diabetes.

Another test is the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in which you will have to drink a beverage that has glucose. Once you’ve consumed the beverage, your blood sugar level will be monitored in every 30 to 60 minutes for nearly 3 hours. If during this period, the level goes to 200mg/dL or higher, diabetes will be confirmed.

Last but not the least; it is the A1c test which happens to be a blood test showing your average blood sugar levels, including the figures from the past 2-3 months. If the A1c level is 6.5% or higher, you have diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

The primary objective of any diabetes treatment is controlling the blood sugar (glucose) levels and bringing it back to the normal range.

For treating type 1 diabetes (T1D), the following can be included:

  • Insulin
  • Exercise
  • Type 1 diabetes diet

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) can be treated with the following:

  • Weight reduction
  • Type 2 diabetes diet
  • Exercise
  • Oral medications
  • Insulin (in case medications stand ineffective)

Managing Diabetes

As stated above, there is no permanent cure for diabetes. The condition can only be managed and prevented from aggravating.

To manage your diabetes, you should keep certain things in mind and take care of the following:

  • Try and keep the blood sugar level by eating the right food, taking timely medications and being physically active
  • Make it a point to maintain blood cholesterol and triglyceride (lipid) levels by staying away from added sugars, processed starches, saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Monitor your blood pressure; it shouldn’t be over 130/80
  • Visit your healthcare provider on a regular basis for a proper health check-up

Foods to Avoid with Diabetes

Your diet has a major impact on your blood sugar level. Therefore, it is very important that you be watchful of what you eat. In both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, diet is a crucial way towards sound health and effective management of diabetes.

If you are a diabetic or at a risk of developing diabetes, you should steer clear of the following food products.

Refined Starch

Refined starch is very harmful to people who have diabetes which is often found in food products as white bread, pasta, and white flour. Refined starch comes with a high glycemic index which can spike the blood sugar levels.

Full Fat Dairy

Full-fat dairy products are rich in saturated fats that are known to increase insulin resistance while complicating diabetes. The saturated fats even increase the level of harmful LDL “bad” cholesterol in your blood which can raise the risk of heart diseases.

Potatoes

Diabetes patients should avoid excess intake of potatoes as it can be very harmful. The starch found in potatoes is made of long glucose strings that quickly break down in your intestine and get absorbed in the blood, causing a quick increase in the blood glucose levels. If at all you are eating potatoes, make sure you cook them along with other leafy vegetables which will slow down the digestion of potato.

Fruit Juices

Eating fruits in their whole form is very good for health but consuming fruit juice is not advisable, especially when you have diabetes. Fruit juices are rich in fruit sugar which can increase blood glucose levels. Drinking fruit juice daily can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 18%.

Sugary Foods

Foods made of processed sugar lack nutritional value and happen to be low-quality carbohydrates. These foods can spike your blood sugar levels while even making you gain weight. So, it is better to stay away from candies, cakes, and cookies.

Alcohol

If you are addicted to alcohol or happen to be an occasional drinker, you should be careful as alcohol is known to interfere with the blood sugar levels. You should check with your doctor to ensure if drinking in moderation will be of any help or you’ll have to completely quit drinking alcohol.

White Rice

People consuming white rice on a daily basis stand to be at 27% higher risk of having diabetes as compared to those who eat whole grain products. White rice has low-quality carbohydrates and it lacks fibers. White rice is easy to digest that can shoot up your blood glucose level.

Packaged Snacks & Baked Foods

These food types are loaded with white flour, sodium, and preservatives and sugar. Moreover, they even contain Trans fats which can increase the level of cholesterol while also increasing the blood sugar levels.

Artificial Sweeteners

It’s a common perception that artificial sweeteners make a great choice for the diabetes patients. However, the fact is that these sweeteners cause you more harm by affecting the blood glucose levels. They even reduce insulin sensitivity and aggravate diabetes.

Fried Foods

Be it your favorite chicken nuggets or the French fries, any food item that’s deep fried is harmful to health. And in case of diabetes, it can be more harmful. They not just cause weight gain but are even loaded with unhealthy trans-fats that cause an increase in the level of LDL “bad” cholesterol. It can even increase your risk of suffering from coronary artery diseases.

Red Meat

Red meat like lamb, beef, and pork are quite harmful in case of diabetes as they are rich in unhealthy saturated fat which causes inflammation while also subjecting you to development of heart disease.

Soft Drinks and Energy Drinks

Sugary soft drinks, as well as the various energy drinks, are known to increase your risk of developing diabetes. Soft drinks contain high amounts of calories which can lead to weight gain and excess weight increases the risk of developing diabetes.

Foods to eat with diabetes

Diabetes itself is a complex health condition and it even increases your risk of suffering from various other health disorders as heart disease, kidney disease and a lot many more. Along with medications, it is equally important that you take proper care of your diet.

There are certain foods which can help regulate your blood sugar levels and manage diabetes in an effective manner.

Some of the diabetic-friendly foods include:

Bitter gourd: It is rich in ‘plant insulin’ which can help in lowering your blood sugar levels. You can eat it cooked or consume its juice.

Almonds: Rich in fiber, almonds are recommended for controlling blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Soak them overnight and eat every day in the morning.

Fenugreek: Rich in soluble fiber, fenugreek seeds slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. This is why it is one of the commonly used foods to control diabetes.

Green tea: As it’s unfermented, it has higher levels of polyphenol content, which is known to have antioxidant and hypoglycemic effects. The polyphenols aid in the guarded release of blood sugars.

Indian blackberry (Jamun): The seeds of Indian blackberry must be dried and powdered before consumption, as they contain glycoside that prevents the conversion of starch into sugars.

High fiber vegetables: Vegetables like beans, peas, and spinach are rich in fiber that help to regulate the blood sugar levels.

Pulses: Carbs present in pulses cause no effect to your blood sugar level like other carbohydrate-rich foods do.

Garlic: It contains zinc and sulfur, components of insulin and is also rich in potassium which makes it a great choice for diabetes patients.

Flaxseed: It is recommended for managing diabetes because flaxseeds maintain cell membrane sensitivity and facilitate insulin.

Cinnamon solution: The water extracts of cinnamon promote glucose metabolism while also helping to reduce cholesterol.

Antioxidants: Diabetes is associated with several health conditions as heart disease, immune deficiency, diabetic retinopathy and kidney disease which are caused to free radical damage. Including antioxidants can help in controlling the blood sugar levels, thus preventing other health complications.

Conditions Associated with Diabetes

Diabetic patients are always at a risk of developing severe health complications, which usually occurs when the diabetes is not managed properly. Some of the diseases and disorders associated with diabetes include:

Nerve Pain: Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to severe nerve pain, also called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Controlling the sugar level is the best way to control diabetes-induced nerve pain.

Hampered Vision: Diabetes has an adverse impact on your vision, it can subject you to various eye related disorders and even hamper the natural vision.

Skin Conditions: There are various skin conditions that can occur because of uncontrolled diabetes. If detected early, the skin disorders can be treated efficiently.

Kidney Disease: One of the commonly occurring kidney disorders, diabetic nephropathy is known to be the primary cause of kidney failure.

Infections: Several infections can occur due to diabetes and can be treated effectively if the sugar levels are kept under control.

Heart Disease: Diabetes increases your risk of suffering from heart diseases which can turn fatal if the sugar levels are not controlled.

Restricted joint mobility: Microvascular complications arising because of diabetes can cause your joint to lose their natural flexibility. To treat restricted joint mobility, the blood glucose level must be kept normal. In certain cases, the doctor can advise steroid injections or physiotherapy.

Frozen shoulder: Many diabetes patients complain of frozen shoulder, which causes pain, restricted mobility, and stiffness in the shoulder. Frozen shoulder normally occurs in people who’ve had diabetes since long and are in the older age bracket. Usually, frozen shoulder is treated by physiotherapy, painkillers, and steroid injections and in some cases; a surgery can also be suggested.

Dental problems: If you are suffering from type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to experience dental problems as compared to people who don’t have diabetes. The problems can include fungal infections (oral thrush), gum inflammation (gingivitis), infection and inflammation of the ligaments as well as bone supporting the teeth (periodontitis), dry mouth (xerostomia), tooth decay (dental caries) and disturbances in taste.

Conclusion

Treatment for diabetes is an ongoing process and managing the condition majorly depends on the lifestyle and food choices you make. You can continue living a normal life with diabetes, provided you take good care of your health and this includes leading a healthy lifestyle and healthy diet.

Any health concern should be brought to the attention of your medical care provider if you are a diabetic. This will help in controlling the problem before it becomes more complex and affects you adversely.

As one of the leading hospitals in India, Shalby Hospitals Ahmedabad has highly experienced Diabetologists and Endocrinologists who bring to you the most effective medical care for diabetes management. The doctors specialize in providing customized treatment approach for various hormone induced ailments, of which diabetes is the most common one. From various diabetes types occurring in adults to neonatal diabetes, we cater to everything with precision.

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