By Zach Malott
CEO, Brentwood Health International
Diabetes has hidden dangers that begin before diagnosis and continue to worsen if certain steps are not taken to prevent the complications that are the true, “killers” in terms of diabetes.
Statistics show that there are around 18 million diabetics in America, both Type 1 and Type 2. It is amazing how many people, diabetics included, who have no idea what dangers a diabetic faces over their lifetime. A diabetic, all things being equal, lives on average almost 10 years less than their non-diabetic counterpart.
Why do diabetics life shorter life spans than non-diabetics? The answer is both simple and at the same time, complicated - simple in explaining in general terms, complicated in the medical sense. Without traveling the complicated route in this article, I will try to give a simple, straight forward answer to the above question.
Diabetics live shorter lives than non-diabetics because of diabetic complications.
What Are Diabetic Complications?
Diabetic complications are chronic medical conditions within the body of the diabetic that are brought about by a condition the medical community had named, “Advanced Glycation End products” which is simply, “excess sugar” saturating the inside of the cells of the body. This condition, also called AGE for short, includes coronary artery disease, vascular disease, blindness, kidney disease, retinopathy (blindness) and loss of feeling in the hands and the feet (peripheral neuropathy) among others.
Diabetes in the early stages does not produce symptoms. Unless found during a routine medical exam, it is possible for a diabetic to remain undiagnosed for years. It is during these years that the beginnings of diabetic complications can gain a foothold due excess sugar in the cells (AGE). The statistics show there is the possibility of as many as over 5 million people going about their normal lives while having undiagnosed diabetes.
Are Diabetic Complications A Certainty?
While the current consensus is that the formula for diabetic complications: Diabetes + Time = Complications, this means that there is a much higher potential of a diabetic becoming diagnosed with one or more diabetic complications over time. This is partly influenced by how well the individual monitors and controls his/her blood sugar.
Drastic rises and falls of blood sugar can be hard on the body and the excess sugar present in the cells can create havoc on the different nerves within the body as well as the capillaries, veins, and arteries. The evidence to date shows that excellent control of blood sugar and an active lifestyle goes a very long way in preventing and/or slowing down the onset of diabetic complications.
The Different Types Of Diabetes
There are two types of diabetes, Type One and Type Two. Type One attacks children and young adults and is characterized by the pancreas failing to produce insulin which is a hormone that breaks down sugars and starches while converting them into energy. Type Two occurs usually later in an adult’s life and is characterized by the pancreas being unable to produce enough insulin due to several factors, obesity being one.
Around 10 percent of diabetics are Type One while the other 90 percent are Type Two. The major difference between the two is that Type One diabetics are completely dependent on insulin and take daily injections while the Type Two’s include both those who require insulin shots while others can rely on oral medication and/or changes in diet and exercise.
The Risk Factors Surrounding Diabetes
There are several risk factors that can push a pre-diabetic into full blown diabetes.
1) being overweight.
2) family history of diabetes,
3) lack of adequate exercise.
4) history of gestational diabetes (occurs during pregnancy and usually disappears after delivery).
5) certain ethnic groups
People over 45 years of age and having one or several of the risk factors mentioned above should be screened for diabetes each year, preferably during an annual medical exam. It has been shown that people with these risk factors comprise the majority of diagnosed cases of diabetes each year.
What Tests Help Diagnose Diabetes Cases?
There are two, main tests used for determining whether or not a person has a glucose intolerance:
1) Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
2) Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
Both of these tests can determine glucose intolerance which is where blood sugar is higher than what is considered normal. However, this is not always an indication of diabetes.
Can The Onset Of Diabetes Be Prevented?
People with the above risk factors can go a long way toward preventing the development of full-blown diabetes by making significant lifestyle change. What are lifestyle changes? Changing unhealthy diets to more blood sugar friendly ones, doing enough exercise to help offset increased blood sugar levels and keep the body healthy and losing weight especially if considered obese by the medical community.
If you are pre-diabetic you need to stay on a strict diabetic diet. Ask your healthcare professional for a diet that meets that criteria and limit cakes, candy, cookies, and other things made of simple sugars. Eat small, nutritious meals and eat 5 times a day instead of only three.
If you are already diagnosed with full-blown diabetes, you should follow the same diet while under the meticulous care of your healthcare professional. Keep your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar within proper limits and have your eyes checked every year.
Diabetes can contribute to blindness, kidney disease and heart disease. Complications caused nearly 70,000 deaths in 2000.
Diabetic complications can be prevented or lessened for a longer time period by paying serious attention to lifestyle. A diabetic who eats right, keeps his blood sugar in control and within accepted limits, exercises and gets proper rest can expect to have a quality of life that is much higher in terms of the pain and suffering that diabetic complications brings into the lives of diabetics who do nothing to change their lifestyle.
What begins to occur in the diabetic who starts to develop complications because of uncontrolled blood sugars over time is a life filled with the possibility of becoming an invalid, either blind, an amputee, or suffering renal failure or a heart attack.
The above paints a rather grim picture if lifestyle changes are not adhered to. Research has shown that the diabetic that keeps their blood sugar within acceptable limits and follows a healthy, diabetic lifestyle that has been shown to be effective against diabetic complications, stands a much better chance of not developing many of the complications their less than dedicated counterparts do.