Coverage of our nation's obsession with sugar is commonplace, so it is likely that most of us are aware of the connection between excess sugar and diabetes. At it's most basic, diabetes can be described as an inability of your body to efficiently process glucose (sugar). The end result is that excess sugar builds up in the bloodstream leading to potential health complications such as
- cardiovascular disease
- nerve damage
- kidney damage
- eye damage
- foot damage
- skin and mouth conditions
- brain problems, and
- cancer (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes/DS01121/DSECTION=complications)
While excess sugar is definitely a contributor to this disease, there are actually many reasons for why people contract diabetes, and there are also different types of diabetes
- Type 1 diabetes - An individual's immune system begins attacking insulin-producing cells in the pancreas depleting the insulin in their system and allowing sugar to build up in the bloodstream. This type of diabetes is typically genetic, or inherited.
- Type 2 diabetes - An individual's cells become resistant to insulin and the pancreas is not able to create enough insulin cells to overcome the resistance. As a result, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. This is the more common type of diabetes and it is often preceded by prediabetes.
- Gestational diabetes - Sometimes changes caused by pregnancy can cause a woman's cells to become more resistant to insulin, which can cause sugar to build up in the bloodstream (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes/DS01121/DSECTION=causes).
Symptoms of diabetes, or prediabetes, can vary depending upon how much sugar is currently in an individual's system. Some warning signs to look for are
- increased thirst
- frequent urination
- extreme hunger
- unexplained weight loss
- presence of ketones in the urine - a byproduct produced when the body begins breaking down muscle and fat, instead of using the sugar in the system
- blurred vision
- slow-healing sores
- mild high blood pressure
- frequent infections - especially gum and skin, or vaginal or bladder (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes/DS01121/DSECTION=symptoms)
If you suspect that you or someone you love may have diabetes, it is important to see the doctor as soon as possible.
Diabetes is a disease that can seriously impact your life. I watched one of my grandmothers suffer from this disease for many years. She lost most of her sight, and had problems with her feet. Both of these things made her life much harder and kept her from fully enjoying many things that she had previously regularly done, such as crocheting and gardening. I have been working hard to take precautions that will hopefully help prevent this disease by working on eating healthy and avoiding extra sugar whenever possible. I try to save sugary treats for truly special occasions and not partake on a daily basis. I also check ingredients on prepackaged foods to determine if there is added sugar - you would be surprised at the amount of sugar that can be hidden in foods that we don't normally think of as "sweet"! I have also been working on being more active on a regular basis and keeping my weight down to a healthy level. The Mayo Clinic says, "If you're overweight, losing even 5 percent of your body weight - for example, 10 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds - can reduce the risk of diabetes" (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes/DS01121/DSECTION=prevention). Focusing on healthy eating and lifestyle can be hard at times, but I keep myself motivated by regularly assessing how much better I feel when I eat right and stay active, and by thinking about how good it feels to know that these, sometimes hard, decisions mean that I am taking care of myself.
The American Diabetes Association will be working all month to raise awareness for this disease. This year's campaign has the theme "A Day in the Life of Diabetes". Individuals are encouraged to participate by sending in photos showing what it is like to live with this disease on a daily basis. CVS has partnered with the American Diabetes Association to donate $1 for each photo uploaded. To upload your photos and participate in this awareness raising campaign, see this site: http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/programs/american-diabetes-month/.
What motivates you to stay healthy? Please share your ideas with us!