Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Diabetes

2015-02-02 22.30.30

Diabetes: Some Call it “The Disease of The Century”

“Starvation amidst plenty” is one of the best ways to describe diabetes. And like many, it makes little sense that anything, or anyone, should be hungry when there is aplenty. Another thing that doesn’t make sense to many of us is that despite all of our advancements and technology (we can put a man on the moon), diabetes continues to grow exponentially. Today, there are an estimated 29 million Americans with the disease!

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know about diabetes and making it just a word, not a sentence:

What is diabetes mellitus? It is a metabolic disorder. Metabolism describes the process of maintaining the basic functions of our cells. And just like a car, our cells require fuel to supply the energy. Glucose, a.k.a. “sugar,” functions as a source of fuel and is very carefully regulated in order to provide a “steady supply.”

Glucose cannot enter a cell without the hormone insulin. In other words, insulin serves as a “key” to allow entry. The pancreas, located on the left side of the body (under the stomach), is an organ that produces and releases insulin in response to a number of signals, such as eating.

Are there different types of diabetes? There are 2 main classifications:
Type 1 diabetes (a.k.a. insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes, early-onset diabetes) occurs when the pancreas does not make insulin. The cause is unclear, but is believed to be the result of our own immune system attacking insulin-producing cells. It is usually diagnosed during childhood or teenage years and comprises 10% of all cases of diabetes mellitus. Treatment involves multiple, daily insulin injections for the duration of a person’s life.
Type 2 diabetes (a.k.a. non-insulin dependent diabetes, adult-onset diabetes) occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin OR cells do not properly respond to insulin. It is usually diagnosed during adulthood, associated with obesity, and comprises 90% of all cases of diabetes mellitus.

I was told I am “prediabetic.” What does that mean? This term refers to people whose blood glucose levels are increased, but do not meet the established criteria for diabetes mellitus. Today, there are an estimated 75 million prediabetics!! Our doctors will advise us to change our diets, exercise, and lose weight to hopefully prevent developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

What are complications of diabetes? When our tissues are continuously exposed to high levels of glucose, this can cause cataracts, nerve injury, problems with how we digest, and disease of our blood vessels. And in case we forgot what our blood vessels do, they deliver nutrients and oxygen to every single cell in our body (that’s 37,200,000,000,000 cells and more than our national debt!). Damage to blood vessels can result in heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and blindness.

How is diabetes diagnosed? In the past, some cultures used “water tasters” that would taste urine to determine if it was sweet. Today, the diagnosis is confirmed through blood testing. The most common is the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test that measures the concentration of glucose. This test is usually performed in the morning and must be done BEFORE eating or drinking anything. Normal: less than 100 mg/dL; Prediabetes: 100-125 mg/dL; Diabetes: greater than 125 mg/dL.

How do I manage diabetes? Although diabetes is a serious disease, committing to make lifestyle changes puts us in the driver’s seat. Studies have shown that when patients are engaged and proactive about their disease, they can decrease their complications significantly. This involves making healthy food choices, staying at a healthy weight, moving more every day, and taking medications even when we feel fine.

Even if we do not have diabetes, there is hardly an American who does not have a family member or friend that is not affected by it. And remember, if we change nothing, nothing will change. Let’s make diabetes only a word, not a sentence.

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.