November is Diabetes month and a perfect time to highlight this condition that remains prevalent in communities of color. Diabetes has very few degrees of separation. Typically, either you have been diagnosed with diabetes or you know someone who is grappling with the disease. The good news is that medical advancements have progressively allowed those with diabetes to lead regular lives so long as they follow the medical plan as prescribed by their healthcare provider.
What is diabetes?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).
Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, though it often appears during childhood or adolescence.
With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2. Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, can develop at any age, though it’s more common in people older than 40.
Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, your baby could be at higher risk for health problems.
What are some of the signs and symptoms?
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
If you experience any of the above symptoms on a consistent basis, contact your doctor for an examination.
What causes diabetes?
While Type 1 is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, those factors are still unclear.
With type 2 diabetes, cells become resistant to the action of insulin, and the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Instead of moving into your cells where it’s needed for energy, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.
What are some risk factors?
- Weight. The more fatty tissue one has, the more resistant cells become to insulin.
- Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity impacts weight control, which uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Heredity. Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
- Race or ethnicity. While the reason is not known Black, Hispanic, Native Americans and Asian Americans are at higher risk.
- Age. The risk to develop diabetes increases as you get older. This may be the result of less exercise and inactivity which leads to loss of muscle mass and weight gain.
- High blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol increases risk of type 2 diabetes. People with high levels of triglycerides also have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. See your doctor to have your levels checked.
What are some of the complications caused by diabetes?
The longer one has diabetes, the more complications can develop. This is why it is so important to follow your doctor’s orders and stay on top of your insulin levels. Possible complications include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Kidney damage (nephropathy)
- Eye damage (retinopathy)
- Foot damage
- Skin conditions
- Hearing impairment
- Alzheimer’s disease
In observation of Diabetes Month, take the time to set an appointment with your doctor to have cholesterol tests and other exams that help determine if you are diabetic or close to becoming one. Remember, the sooner the diagnosis the greater chance of controlling the disease. Your health matters!
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