Straight, No Chaser: Diabetes Basics Made Simple

diabetes-treadmill

Somehow, I’ve managed not to talk much about diabetes. What an oversight that has been, and it’s one that is about to be corrected. As much as I’ve talked about the importance of your blood vessels, diabetes is a disease that further drives that point home. However, I’ll get to that later. First here’s some basic information for you.

We eat, and the process of digestion is for the purpose of converting food into glucose (sugar) that’s used by our body for energy. The blood delivers the glucose to different organs of the body where the cells take it up for use. In order for that process to work, an organ that’s part of the digestive tract called the pancreas has to produce a hormone called insulin. Insulin facilitates the glucose getting from the blood to inside the cells. Diabetes is a disease where insulin isn’t being made by the pancreas or isn’t working optimally.

Now think about what happens when you’re not getting sugar into your cells. It’s as if you’re starving (because physiologically, you might as well be). You get symptoms such as weight loss, hunger, fatigue and excessive thirst. Because your cells don’t have energy, they aren’t functioning well. In fact, blood and nerve vessels lose significant function, resulting in significant vision loss and lack of sensitivity in your extremities. Anyone who’s been a diabetic for about 10 years know this because you’re wearing glasses and because you’ve lost a fair amount of sensation, especially in your feet. There are other symptoms that are variations of the same theme, including excessive urination, dry skin, increased infection rate and slower healing from those infections – all due to poor function of your blood vessels.

Sometimes diabetes is a disease that happens to you because of unlucky genetics (or simply a family history). Other times it is a disease that you find. Risk factors for developing diabetes includes obesity, older age, and physical inactivity. Gestational diabetes (i.e. that occurring during pregnancy) is an entirely different conversation.

Let’s take a moment to discuss prevention and treatment. I haven’t discussed the different types of diabetes (but will if you ask questions), but the risk of one form of diabetes in particular can be reduced by – you guessed it – diet and exercise. In fact, diet, exercise and medications are the three legs of the diabetes treatment stool regardless of type. Some patients require regular insulin injections and others require pills. Still others who are successful with diet and exercise are able to markedly reduce, and in some instances eliminate medications.

I will have additional comments on diabetes in future posts. I welcome your questions and comments.

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7 Comments

Filed under Endocrine/Metabolic, Medical Treatment

7 responses to “Straight, No Chaser: Diabetes Basics Made Simple

  1. Stephanie

    The daughter of one of my friends had type 1 diabetes, and she died in her sleep last year. Just went to sleep and never woke up. The doctors said that sometimes happens to kids with type 1 diabetes and that it is called “dead in bed syndrome.” Can you please explain the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

    • Hi, Stephanie. I alluded to this without naming the differences. Basically, in type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin (this is most often seen in kids and young adults but only is 5% of cases), and in type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t properly respond to insulin (aka insulin resistant diabetes). In either event, the glucose isn’t sufficiently getting into your cells. Thanks for the question and following Straight, No Chaser.

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