In 2010, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the US, according to the American Diabetes Association. During that year, over 69,000 death certificates of Americans listed diabetes as the underlying cause of death.
The most current data, provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that as of 2012, 29 million people were diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Also in 2012, 1.7 million people – ages 20 or older – were diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes for the first time.
These astonishing statistics show that diabetes is a major problem in our society today. With the unhealthy eating habits and statistics of obesity in the United States, millions of Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. However, patients still do not take this metabolic disease as seriously as they should.
In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2030, the number of people living with diabetes will more than double.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes, also formally known as diabetes mellitus, is a group of metabolic diseases. With diabetes, the affected individual has high blood glucose (or blood sugar) due to one or both of the following reasons: their insulin production is inadequate, or their body’s cells do not properly respond to the insulin.
The pancreas, an organ located near your stomach, is responsible for producing the hormone called insulin. Insulin is then responsible for aiding glucose in getting into your cells. The majority of the food we eat is transformed into glucose, or sugar, to be used as energy for our bodies. Therefore, individuals suffering from diabetes experience a build-up of glucose in their blood.
There are a few different types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. While all diseases share the same basis, they do differ slightly from each other in their exact defects. Gestational diabetes is a form of high blood sugar which affects pregnant women.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body produces little to no insulin. This form of diabetes is typically diagnosed during childhood; however, it can still be diagnosed in adulthood.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition which impacts the way the body processes the insulin produced. People suffering from type 2 diabetes still produce insulin in their pancreas, but their body becomes less sensitive to the insulin over time. Type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed in individuals over 40; however, it can still be diagnosed much earlier – even during childhood.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is when someone has a blood sugar level that is higher than normal but is not yet high enough to be formally diagnosed with diabetes. A person diagnosed with prediabetes is more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at some point in life. They are also more likely to suffer from other serious health problems such as a stroke or heart disease.
Certain risk factors for prediabetes include age – especially someone older than 45 years of age – being obese or overweight, a family history of diabetes, and being physically active less than three times per week.
However, research shows that if you do suffer from prediabetes, there are ways you can prevent a later diagnosis of type 2 diabetes: lose 5 to 7 percent of your body weight and get at least 150 minutes of physical activity in each week – this can be something simple like brisk walking.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are diagnosed using a blood test that includes a hemoglobin A1C test, fasting blood sugar, and a glucose tolerance test.
After a sugary drink is ingested, the glucose tolerance test measures the patient’s blood sugar. The hemoglobin A1C test will measure the average blood sugar level over the past few months. For an individual who does not have diabetes, the A1C level should reflect less than 5.7 percent. However, if the test results show 6.4 percent or higher on two separate occasions, it indicates you have diabetes.
For the fasting blood sugar test, you are typically considered diabetic if you have a glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher.
The immune system of someone with type 1 diabetes will make antibodies, which then act against the insulin-producing cells found in the pancreas. Doctors can detect these antibodies in a blood test.
Type 2 diabetes might be diagnosed based on suspicion due to relative symptoms and your risk factors, such as family history of obesity and diabetes.
What makes diabetes dangerous?
If not properly managed, diabetes has the potential to negatively affect almost all organs and systems in your body. Improperly managed diabetes can lead to several health problems and even death.
There are several complications that can arise as a result of improper care of your diabetes. These include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease), feet complications, stroke and heart attack, hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (HHNS), and gastroparesis.
Diabetes also puts you at twice the risk of heart disease or a heart attack, compared to someone without diabetes. Other complications linked to diabetes include stroke, cognitive decline, high blood pressure, kidney disease, high cholesterol, foot infections, eye problems and skin infections.
Below is a deeper look into a few common complications as a result of diabetes:
Individuals with diabetes are at risk for retinal damage because the sensitive eye tissue can be affected by poor glucose control. The eye’s innermost layer is the retina. It is incredibly important to your vision. Your retina takes in light from surrounding areas and then converts the light into signals, which are sent for image recognition in the brain.
When the retina is affected, the blood vessels within it are usually damaged. This could impact your ability to properly decipher between images. Also, diabetics are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.
This term refers to kidney damage as a result of diabetes. Located in your kidneys are blood vessels which constantly filter the waste found in your blood. However, with diabetes, the consistently high blood-sugar level can cause damage to the blood vessels or even lead to their destruction. Therefore, the kidneys are unable to properly function.
This could potentially lead to kidney failure.
Since diabetics often have nerve damage in their feet, even a simple callous or cut could pose a major threat and lead to serious complications. As a result of nerve damage, the blood flow in a diabetic’s foot is poor, which also leads to poor feeling.
A diabetic might not feel a small cut on their foot due to a lack of sensation. When combined with the factor of poor blood flow, even a small cut could lead to a serious infection and even amputation.
Stroke and Heart Attack
Diabetes is the strongest risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center. Of everyone with diabetes who is over the age of 65, 74 percent die from a stroke or heart attack. Also, adults suffering from diabetes have a 200 to 400 percent increased risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, compared to individuals without diabetes.
Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome
Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (HHNS) is a condition which is most commonly seen in adults who are older and suffer from type 2 diabetes; however, it can be seen in those with type 1 diabetes as well.
This serious condition occurs when the blood sugar levels in the body rise, and the body makes an effort to quickly rid itself of this excess sugar via expulsion through urine. During this time, the affected individual might need to use the restroom frequently, but they eventually might stop going as often, and their urine will become dark.
Since dehydration is such a threat with this condition, seizures, a diabetic coma, and even death are potential results if left untreated.
Gastroparesis occurs when the stomach takes longer than normal to empty the contents inside. The vagus nerve is responsible for controlling the movement of food through the digestive tract, however, in a person with diabetes, this nerve becomes damaged due to the continuation of high glucose levels.
Once the vagus nerve becomes damaged, the intestines and muscles of the stomach no longer work properly, slowing down the movement of food or stopping it. Gastroparesis can occur in someone with either type of diabetes. It can cause nausea, vomiting, weight loss, heartburn, abdominal pain and more.
What are the symptoms of diabetes complications?
While the common symptoms of developing diabetes can also be symptoms that diabetes complications might be arising, diabetes complications do have some symptoms of their own.
A few signs of nerve damage related to diabetes include tingling of the limbs, rapid heartbeat, trouble sleeping, proneness to injury or falling, changes in perspiration and changes in senses.
Some signs of skin-related diabetes complications include styes in the eyes and eyelids, acne, dermopathy, blisters and scales, and infections.
Eye-related diabetes complication symptoms include glaucoma, seeing spots, and cataracts.
How do you manage diabetes?
With the correct health information and proper lifestyle changes, diabetes can be monitored and regulated. Many people with type 2 diabetes can manage and reverse their disease and symptoms by improving their diet, increasing physical activity and managing sleep and stress levels. However, type 1 diabetes can be harder to address. Still, symptoms can still be managed using the same methods and by monitoring glucose levels.
Educate yourself on the symptoms of diabetes, the causes of diabetes and the best ways to prevent it. A few easy and natural ways of managing and preventing diabetes are:
- Normalize your omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The average person consumes far too much omega-6 and far too little omega-3. You can find omega-3 in fatty fish such as salmon, fish oil, and krill oil. Omega-6 is found in processed vegetable oils and therefore, most fried foods, too.
- Eat a balanced diet. A great way to keep your blood sugar in range is to focus on mainly eating unprocessed, whole foods. Try to avoid things such as trans-fat, processed grains and sugars. When addressing your diet, one of your primary focuses should be to limit your intake of net carbs and protein. Instead, replace them with higher amounts of high-quality, healthy fats. The best, and only way, to manage your intake of carbs and protein is to keep a food diary.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is one of the most powerful ways to lower your leptin and insulin resistance. Be mindful that excessive sitting is as harmful, if not more harmful, than forgetting to exercise altogether.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is important to your overall well-being – this is the time your body has to repair itself. Getting at least eight hours of sleep each night will help normalize your hormonal system. Studies show sleep deprivation could be linked to insulin sensitivity.
- Address stress or other underlying mental health issues. Stress, anxiety, and depression wear your body down physically and mentally. This deterioration can inhibit other bodily functions. It is important to address all underlying issues to alleviate added stress on your body.
- Protect and treat your skin. High blood sugar levels can lead to damaged skin. Always practice good hygiene and use proper UV protection when spending time in the sun to avoid dry and damaged skin.
- Keep your eyes safe. Diabetics are more likely to suffer from vision-related problems. To protect your eyes, get a regular check-up at the eye doctor and be sure to wear sunglasses when planning to be in the sun for a while.
How do you prevent diabetes?
A few lifestyle changes can help you prevent diabetes. Studies have found that exercise and moderate weight loss amongst high-risk adults can prevent or delay the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Along with daily physical activity and weight loss, eating healthier can also help prevent or delay diabetes.
Want to learn more?
Diabetes is a common and potentially dangerous metabolic disease. With the potential to negatively affect your limbs, and all the organs and systems within your body, diabetes could easily get out of control. Unfortunately, if left unchecked and not addressed correctly, diabetes can lead to a diabetic coma and even death.
But, this does not have to be the case. With proper care and monitoring, you can manage and even prevent a diabetes diagnosis. It is important to know the causes and symptoms of diabetes to ensure prevention or proper care of the disease.
Dr. Dale Kelly, DC, CFMP has been helping patients for nearly 30 years get to the root cause of their health problems including those who suffer with diabetes and help them to get their lives back. If you or someone you love suffer with this devastating disease, you owe it to yourself to contact Dr. Kelly and schedule a FREE phone consultation to see if you qualify to work with him. Call the office today at 775-358-6824 and schedule an appointment.