What Is Diabetes? A Silent Killer?
Did you know that Diabetes was the 9th leading cause of death in 2019 with an estimated 1.5 million deaths directly caused by diabetes? (1)
Did you know that Diabetes is also a major cause of blindness, kidney failure , heart attacks, stroke & lower limb amputation ? (1)
Let me tell you the latest Results from the International diabetes federation Diabetes Atlas, 9th edition which states, “Just under half a billion people are living with diabetes worldwide & the number is projected to increase by 25% in 2030 & by 51% in 2045.” This is a huge jump, and if not controlled it spells doom for mankind! (2)
The irony is that a healthy diet - with a balance of the right nutrients, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight, & avoiding tobacco are ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes! But no one bothers to understand this seriously with facts & figures. There are many super foods that can be incorporated into your daily diet which would not only arrest the progression of diabetes but it can even help reverse the same!
It is important to understand that all this is possible only when you are dedicated to the cause & diligently pursue a healthy lifestyle.
What is Diabetes?
A brief introduction to the main villain: Diabetes Mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses up blood sugar also referred to as glucose. Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up our muscles & tissues. It’s also our brain’s main fuel.
The underlying causes of Diabetes can vary according to the type of diabetes, but whatever type it may be the fact remains that it leads to excess sugar in your blood! Excess sugar in your blood is never good news because it can lead to serious and I mean, SERIOUS long term health problems!
Types of diabetes:
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic health condition which includes: (3)
- Type 1 (Can develop at any age but usually in childhood or adolescence)
- Type 2 (More common, at any age, frequently post 40)
Potentially reversible Diabetes conditions:
- Prediabetes (stage before it becomes a full-blown case of Diabetes)
- Gestational (Diabetes related to pregnancy which may resolve post the delivery)
Diabetes Symptoms :
Symptoms of Diabetes vary depending upon how much the blood sugar level is elevated, sometimes people with type 2 & prediabetes may not even experience any symptoms! However symptoms can be quite severe & swift in type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms to watch out for are:
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increases thirst
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections
- Other symptoms like presence of ketones in urine, slow healing sores etc.
Even before we try to decipher Diabetes & it’s complications, we need to understand the role of Glucose in our body. To understand how Glucose is normally processed in the body we need to interact with insulin. (It’s like a multi-star cast movie, where there is a villain, there has to be side - kick as well)
So how does Insulin work?
Insulin is a hormone that comes from a gland situated below the stomach called the pancreas.
- The pancreas secretes insulin into the blood stream
- The insulin circulates, enabling sugar to enter your cells
- Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your blood stream
- As your blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from your pancreas
What does Glucose do?
Glucose is a sugar, which is a source of energy for the cells that make up our muscles & other tissues.
- Glucose comes from 2 major sources, food & your liver
- Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin
- Your liver will store & make glucose
- When your glucose levels are low, like if you haven’t eaten in a while, your liver will break down the stored glycogen into glucose to keep your levels in the normal range.
What Causes Type 1 diabetes?
Truth be told, it’s still a mystery, but what is known is that your immune system which normally safeguards you from harm ends up attacking & destroying your insulin producing cells in the pancreas. (More villains! One bad apple can spoil others) Which means you have very little or no insulin! So, the sugar which is to be transported by the insulin into the cells for energy get piled up in the blood stream & your sugar levels spike up.
This is where fatigue comes in: No sugar in cells = no energy!
There is an element of genetic susceptibility in type 1 as per some research statistics.
What Causes Pre-Diabetes & Type 2 diabetes?
In Pre-Diabetes (which leads to Diabetes) & Type 2 Diabetes your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, and your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Instead of moving into the cells where it is needed for energy, sugar builds up in the bloodstream & boom! You are detected with type 2 diabetes.
What are the long-term complications of Diabetes?
- Neuropathy (Nerve damage) the excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish your nerves especially your legs. This can cause tingling, numbness or pain starting from the toe which can spread upwards. Left untreated, you could lose all sense of feeling in the limbs. Men can even develop erectile dysfunction.
- Cardiovascular Disease: If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have heart disease or stroke. Diabetes increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke & narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis).
- Kidney damage (Nephropathy).
- Eye Damage (Retinopathy) Loss of vision. Diabetes can also increase incidences of cataract & Glaucoma.
- Foot Damage: Nerve damage & poor blood flow to the foot can lead to various foot complications & infections. If left untreated can even lead to amputations.
- Hearing impairment
- Skin Infections
I'm sure by now you have realized what a mean character Diabetes mellitus is! It basically stems from our body not being able to manufacture enough Insulin or any at all to handle the responsibility of transporting glucose to the cells for energy release.
Thus, the various complications arise starting from fatigue to weight loss or more severe complications when left untreated.
What if you had access to a natural alternative that could mimic the action of insulin in our system? Fascinating, isn’t it?
Watch this space for more on this….
Diabetes research & clinical practice , Volume 157, Nov 2019,107843
Key Facts WHO on diabetes
Mayo Clinic Diabetes Update