Why Should We Care About Diabetes?
Once you know the facts, it is hard not to care about diabetes. In America alone, 17 million people have diabetes. Approximately 1 million Americans are diagnosed each year, and a third of all the people with diabetes are unaware they have it. In the U.S., diabetes is the 5 th leading cause of death by disease and constitutes 20% of all deaths.
WHO (World Health Organization) has declared that there is an epidemic of diabetes. Worldwide, there are 200 million diabetes patients, not including those who still do not know that they have it. In the next decade, the projected number of known diabetics is expected to reach over 250 million.
Because of the small amount of attention that has been paid to the disease despite these alarming numbers, the rise in diabetes has often been called the “Silent Epidemic”. A possible cause for this epidemic has been attributed to changes in modern lifestyle:
• The type of food consumed contains higher numbers of calories and purified sugars;
• The typical meal size has increased;
• People are not exercising adequately;
• Higher stress levels, and;
• An increase in the elderly population.
What Exactly Is Diabetes?
There are several definitions of diabetes, but the most commonly agreed upon definition is that diabetes is a condition when a person's ability to metabolize carbohydrates (sugar) is impaired. Basically, blood sugar does not get burned inside the muscles and tissues, but rather stays in the blood. This results in high blood sugar levels. A person with a sugar level of above 150 ml/dl in the blood in the morning is diagnosed as ‘diabetic'.
Insulin allows the body to convert sugar in the blood into energy. It is secreted by ß (beta) cells in the pancreas. So, in a diabetic, either no insulin or inadequate levels of insulin are being produced. Furthermore, even if insulin is produced in a diabetic, it is highly unlikely that it will be properly utilized.
What Types Of Diabetes Are There?
There are commonly two types of diabetes.
Type I diabetes is when the body cannot produce insulin. Type I diabetics must have daily insulin shots. A more rigorous definition can be that Type I diabetes is caused by an auto-immune process: the body regards the ß beta cell as foreign objects and produces an antibody to kill its own ß beta cells.
For Type II diabetics, the body produces insufficient amounts of insulin. Or, if the body produces enough insulin, the body is either unable to respond to the insulin or the insulin is used inefficiently (this is called insulin resistance). Type II diabetes, or also known as Adult Onset Diabetes, is more common than Type I.
How Can Having High Blood Glucose Affect Me?
Diabetes is much more than just a relative lack of insulin. In one sense, it is a disease that affects the blood vessels, or capillaries. A high concentration of sugar in the blood from relative lack or sensitivity of insulin is still not completely understood. However, it has detrimental effects on the blood vessels and they gradually cease to function properly. Since every organ or tissue in the body depends upon capillary flow to transmit oxygen and glucose and remove waste products, this eventually leads to end-organ damage supplied by those capillaries.
As every cell is dependant to a large degree on glucose for its fuel, any impairment in its supply or being able to properly metabolize that glucose will lead to impairment in the function of those cells and organs. Consequently, the tissues that have the highest demand for proper blood flow and utilization are most susceptible to the damage of impaired flow or metabolism, e.g., the kidneys, heart, nerves, retina. A lack of blood flow and oxygen to the tissues can also result in many infections, and often the only treatment left is amputation. A high concentration of sugar can also cause increased fatigue and weight gain. It does not kill instantly, but causes long-term, permanent damage over many years with lethal complications. That is why we often take a lax attitude: slow and gradual—but certain and fatal.
What Related Complications Can Result From Diabetes?
Diabetes is not only the leading cause of kidney failure, but it is also the leading cause of blindness, particularly among Americans between the ages of 25 and 70. It also increases the chance of having and dying from cardiovascular disease and stroke. The probability of dying from stroke and cardiovascular disease is increased by 400% in people with diabetes, and 2 out of 3 people with diabetes die from heart disease and stroke.
Diabetes also damages the nervous system. Approximately 60%-70% of diabetics have some form of nervous system damage. This is especially a concern for diabetic males because they usually have trouble functioning sexually. Erections involve blood flow and nerves. Because diabetes causes nerve damage and affects blood flow, many males struggle with sexual dysfunction. The first question doctors ask when a patient complains of erectile dysfunction is, “Do you have diabetes?” According to statistics, more than half of sexual dysfunctions among males come from diabetes.
In addition, diabetes is a major risk factor for heart attacks and amputations. Sixty percent of amputations in the U.S. occur among people with diabetes. This means that each year, 82,000 amputations are performed on people with diabetes.
What Is The Relationship Between Diabetes And Obesity?
Diabetes basically involves an inherent metabolism problem. Because of the inability to absorb and process blood sugar in the muscles, the muscles are constantly experiencing malnutrition. Insulin that has been produced may not be efficiently used. Coupled with lack of exercise, excess glucose eventually becomes fat. We also know that this abnormal blood sugar metabolism affects appetite. All of these lead to weight problems.
Between 70%-80% of people with obesity have diabetes. Likewise, 70%-80% of diabetics have difficulty controlling their weight.
I Don't Have Diabetes, Why Should I Be Concerned?
Diabetes is the “silent killer”. Often people who have diabetes do not know it because they cannot feel it. People must take a direct measurement of their blood glucose levels to know if they have diabetes. Even more alarming, when a person is diagnosed with diabetes, the actual development of the disease actually started on the average of seven years prior. Once the active symptoms and complications are observed, diabetes has already entered the later stages. Early detection is good, but prevention is even better. A yearly blood test is essential, even if you feel healthy.
What Is Pre-Diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is when a person has a higher than normal blood glucose levels (hyperglycemic) but the level is not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic or they are unable to secrete enough extra insulin in response to a glucose challenge. This is a cause for concern, especially when 16 million people in the U.S have “Pre-diabetes”. At this point, long term damage to the body is already occurring and often leads to Type II diabetes. If the blood glucose is controlled at an early stage, the development into Type II diabetes can be prevented.
Often, diabetes is referred to as the “Silent Killer” due to the unobvious symptoms of diabetes. People who have diabetes or are pre-diabetic initially do not feel pain or feel any symptoms. It is only when the diabetes has reached a serious stage when all the complications, pain and symptoms surface.
As previously mentioned, according to statistics, once a person is diagnosed as diabetic, it is likely that the onset of the diabetes actually started seven years ago. On average, every 10 years afterward, there is a rise in blood sugar of 100 milligrams per deciliter. Diabetes is a progressive disease.
How Does Diabetes Affect Different Age Groups?
Approximately half of all diabetes cases occur in people older than 55 years of age and 40% of individuals over the age of 60 have impaired glucose tolerance. This means that the elderly are at high risk because the prevalence of diabetes increases with age, especially the risk of Type II diabetes. One in four individuals over the age of 60 has Type II diabetes. A main contributing factor to developing Type II diabetes is declining physical and metabolic activity, which comes with age. Also, reduced mitochondrial activity in muscle cells, which progresses with age, is a serious concern for seniors because it is a major cause for insulin resistance.
There is also an increasing trend of diabetes in younger age groups. From 1990 to 1998, the incidence of diabetes in 30-39 year olds jumped by 76%. This increasing trend also includes children. Today, 30% of pediatric patients in the U.S are Type II diabetic. Because diabetes is not regularly screened in children, many children go undiagnosed. This is especially dangerous because diabetes is a progressive disease. Once diagnosed, there is an almost unavoidable potential for it to escalate. Therefore, it is important to control it early on, especially in children.
As mentioned previously, Type II diabetes is also known as Adult Onset Diabetes. However, with recent statistics concerning the rise of Type II diabetes in children, Adult Onset Diabetes becomes a misnomer.
The rise in diabetic children is cause for alarm because diabetes progresses over time. As a person ages, their diabetes continues to worsen. Also, the use of pharmaceutical drugs just adds to the problem. Diabetic pharmaceutical drugs seem to lose their effectiveness over time, which forces the diabetic to increase the dosage for the same results. So we can predict that when a diabetic child becomes 20 or 30 years old, he will face an advanced stage of diabetes where oral drugs will not work and insulin will be required.
The alarming increase of diabetes in children is parallel to the rise of obesity in America's children. Sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits and various other factors have contributed to this threat to children's health. In fact, it has been estimated that 30% of 6-19 year olds are overweight. Furthermore, approximately 70% of obese adolescents are likely to become obese adults.
Often people say that children can outgrow their diabetes with diet and exercise. This may be possible in a small number, but in the vast majority it is wrong. Diabetes is a progressive disease and will only worsen over time.
What Are The Dangers Of Depending On Pharmaceutical Drugs?
Here is what many people do not know, what many doctors do not emphasize and what everyone should be aware of: all pharmaceutical drugs involve major risk .
Of course, these drugs are valuable for their ability to work effectively and efficiently. For example, for diabetics, pharmaceutical drugs are tremendously helpful in controlling blood glucose. However, they work over a relatively short period of time. So they are effective temporarily, but only temporarily. Over time, they lose their effectiveness. So in 10 years, diabetics are forced to increase their dosage of the same drug for the same result. In another few years, even increasing the dosage will no longer be effective.
Another danger of pharmaceutical drugs is the negative side effects that develop from using and depending on these drugs. Liver failure, kidney failure, damage to the brain and heart are just some of the related consequences of pharmaceutical drugs. For example, a significant portion of all kidney failures in diabetes are actually due to diabetic drugs—not the disease itself. Facing such dangers, it is impossible to tell which is worse: the disease or the drugs?