Diabetes Mellitus (High Blood Sugar) – Highlights on Types and Symptoms

Diabetes mellitus occurs when you have a problem with your pancreas which is the organ that controls your blood glucose. It either stops manufacturing insulin or does not produce enough amounts that satisfy your body’s needs. This deficiency of insulin results in poor absorption of glucose by your body’s cells, which use it for energy production, as well as by your liver, which stores it. The final result of this poor absorption is a high blood sugar or glucose level.

There are two main forms of diabetes mellitus. They are Type I (also called juvenile onset or insulin-dependent) diabetes and Type II (also known as maturity onset or insulin-independent) diabetes.

In Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes; which usually affects young people, the pancreas produces very little or no insulin. The defect is caused by damage to the insulin-producing cells. Your body, unable to use glucose because of the lack of insulin, is forced to obtain energy from fat instead. This can lead to a dangerous condition called diabetic coma.

In Type II (insulin-independent) diabetes; which attacks people commonly around their forties, the cells which produce insulin are still functioning, but the amount of insulin is insufficient for your body’s needs. Patients who suffer from this type of the disorder usually eat too much and are overweight. Their over-eating causes an excess of glucose in their blood, and the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to cope with it. Genetics and hereditary factors are key players in this type. In one third of cases, there is always a family member or members suffering from the disorder. Another factor is your age, because the function of your pancreas is reduced as a part of the normal aging process.

All forms of diabetes cause the same main symptoms. You urinate much more than usual, sometimes as often as every hour or so, throughout the day and night. You may notice white spots, which consist of dried splashes of glucose filled urine, on your underwear or shoes. Microorganisms are attracted to the sugary urine and these can cause various complications, such as bladder infections. The excessive loss of fluid can make you perpetually thirsty, and drinking sweetened beverages increases the amount of urination and makes your thirst worse. Your cells do not get enough glucose, so you feel extremely tired, weak, and apathetic; so much so that you may be unable to get up in the morning.

If you are diabetic or the father/mother of a diabetic child, you might notice excess loss of weight. This is explained by the inability of the body to use glucose as a source of energy and instead your body starts burning your fat and muscle. Other symptoms that you may experience include tingling in the hands and feet, decreased immunity (small abscesses and burning urination due to infection may be the first symptoms of diabetes. ), blurred vision due to excess glucose in the fluid of the eye, and loss of erection in men or the absence of monthly periods in women.

The symptoms of Type I (insulin dependent) diabetes usually develop rapidly, within weeks or months. Those of the Type II (insulin independent) form often do not appear until many years after the actual onset of the disease. Sometimes the disorder is detected by chance at a routine medical examination, before any symptoms appear.

What Is Diabetes? Types Of Diabetes

Diabetes is also referred to as diabetes mellitus, and may broadly be classified as a category of ailments wherein a person has high blood glucose levels. This could be either because insulin production in one’s body is not sufficient, or the body fails to respond to the insulin in the required way. Some of the symptoms that are very commonly associated with diabetes are frequent thirst, hunger and urination.

In some cases, diabetes could be a lifelong condition, characterized by high blood glucose levels. The condition is commonly prevalent, and in the year 2013, 382 million people across the world were suffering from the disorder.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is very often classified as Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. When one suffers from type 1 diabetes, the body ceases to produce insulin. This type of diabetes is relatively rarer, and only 10% of people suffering from the ailment are ailing from Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is also sometimes referred to as insulin dependent diabetes or early onset diabetes. And this type of diabetes is more prevalent in people under 40 years of age, even in one’s teenage years or early adulthood.

If one is ailing with type 1 diabetes, he has to take insulin injections for the rest of his life, follow a specific diet and also monitor his blood glucose levels by carrying out blood tests at regular intervals.

However, type 2 diabetes is a lot more prevalent type of diabetes, and nearly 90% of people who suffer this disorder are ailing with type 2 diabetes. When one suffers from type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin in adequate quantities, or the body cells do not react to insulin, in a condition known as insulin resistance.

For many people, type 2 diabetes is a condition relatively easier to control, and one can keep a check on symptoms of type 2 diabetes by maintaining one’s weight in recommendable limits, making sure that one consumes a healthy diet, getting some regular exercise, and monitoring one’s blood glucose levels at regular intervals.

Gestational Diabetes

An important classification of diabetes is gestational diabetes which affects women during pregnancy. During pregnancy, women sometimes have blood glucose levels which are more towards the higher side, and their body does not produce adequate insulin to transport this glucose into their cells.

Diagnosis of gestational diabetes can be made only during pregnancy, and a vast majority of patients can control their condition by means of diet and exercise. However, 10-20% of patients need to take specific medications to keep a check on their blood glucose levels.

An important way that can enable one to prevent the condition is by making sure that one consumes a low cholesterol diet during pregnancy.

When Do People Get Diabetes?

When one is overweight, he is at a higher risk of developing diabetes. One of the reasons for the same is because when one is obese, the body releases chemicals which can work towards destabilizing body’s metabolic and cardiovascular systems.

So being overweight, not consuming the right kind of a diet and developing type 2 diabetes are all interrelated. Another important factor that is known to greatly enhance the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is aging.

Alternately, some of the other factors that can cause diabetes are genetics, one’s family history, or even following an unhealthy diet regimen.

Some Simple Lifestyle Changes To Overcome Diabetes!

To keep a check on diabetes, one must avoid skipping meals. This could hike the blood sugar levels, and could even lead to weight gain. Taking care of one’s diet is a factor that can go a long way in enabling one keep a check on diabetes, or even overcome the condition.

Similarly, consuming a diet which is high on fruits and vegetables can help control diabetes, because fruits and vegetables are full of fibers. This helps us keep full, and the high vitamin and mineral content in fruits and vegetables helps ensure that the body receives nutrition. This keeps one energetic, and one is not tempted to go for sugary foods.

As a rule, one must avoid all foods which have a higher glycemic index, like chips and salty snacks, and one must keep a check on consumption of fatty foods as well. Similarly, starches from white rice, potatoes and whole grains could also influence diabetes.

Something as simple as drinking 6-8 glasses of water every day is a factor which can go a long way towards prevention and control of diabetes. In the same way, even a slight weight loss can work wonders for someone who is a diabetic. While being the healthiest way to get over diabetes, a slight weight loss of up to 5-10% can have the same effect on a diabetic as anti-diabetic pills!

And if you are considering getting some good exercise, walking stands out as one of the best options!

Walking reduces risk of many ailments like diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis; this keeps the heart stronger and also helps you lose weight.

Relation Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

While relating heart disease and diabetes, a renowned Cardiologist from Gurgaon says:

“People having diabetes develop a cardiovascular disease called as ‘diabetic heart disease’ (DHD). When compared to non-diabetics, people having diabetes at a younger age are at higher risk of heart disease.”

This statement applies to both type 1 and 2 patients- both female and male. The increase in blood glucose levels increases the risk. The high glucose level in the blood leads to deposition of fatty materials on inside walls of blood vessels leading to hardening of blood vessels and clogging a condition known as atherosclerosis.

Just like alcohol, smoking, diabetes and high blood cholesterol, diabetes increases the risk of heart attacks. When these elements are combined with different risk factors, like obesity, diabetes causes harmful. Patients with diabetes are less receptive to heart treatment like bypass surgery and angioplasty.

How are Diabetes and Heart Disease Related?

There are four types of heart diseases common in people with diabetes:

1. Ischemic Heart Disease: This is caused by thickening or hardening of walls of the arteries which are blood vessels that carries blood to the heart. Plague gets deposited on the walls of blood vessels and is known as atherosclerosis.

2. Congestive Heart Failure: It happens when a heart is not able to adequately pump the blood to meet the needs of the body. This occurs due to congestive heart failure where the fluid builds up inside the body cells.

3. Cardiomyopathy: This is a situation where the heart muscles get damaged, thereby leading to improper functioning of the heart.

4. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): This disease takes place when the blood vessels become narrow in the legs due to blockage by fat deposits resulting in an inadequate blood circulation in the feet and legs. This may lead to amputation of the feet or leg, or even increase the chances of heart attack.

What’s the outlook? – Diabetes and Heart Disease

Patients who have diabetes can reduce their risk of heart diseases by talking with the doctor about any prescribed medicines either for preventing or for controlling the risk factors and by making certain lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet, physical activity, and stress management.

Take Action

If you are addicted to smoking, it’s time to quit now. Consult with your doctor and talk about it. If you have tried to quit the smoking habit before, it’s not too late. Many people have tried quitting several times before they kick start for a good habit.

Almost every individual with diabetes can benefit by doing more exercise. It keeps your heart healthy and controls the sugar level in your blood. Even a brisk walking daily for 20 minutes is fruitful. So there is no need of a gym anymore.

If you are an inactive individual, ask your doctor on how to get started. Your doctor will let you know what is safe for you to do.

Most of the diabetic patients take medicine to reduce their blood pressure or to improve cholesterol levels. A daily low-dose of aspirin is recommended by the doctor to protect against heart disease.

Be sure to be in touch with your doctor and be regular in your medical checkups. Attend all your appointments and let your doctor know how you are doing. Together you can make up a healthy heart.

Diabetic Foods – Fact Or Fiction?

Diabetic foods: do they really exist?

What is a diabetic food anyway?

  • Something to control your blood sugar?
  • A product that can actually make your diabetes better?
  • A food to keep your glucose levels from getting worse?
  • Or something to cure diabetes?
  • Or a food to help you lose weight?

Or could the term “diabetic food” be interpreted in the opposite way: foods that cause diabetes?

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a “diabetic food.” Food is just food.

But there are foods which raise the blood sugar more quickly than others, those with a high glycemic index. When these foods are eaten, the normal pancreas would respond with a surge of insulin, keeping blood sugars below about 160 mg/dL. In the diabetic, the pancreas cannot or does not produce sufficient insulin quickly enough to adequately control glucose levels. Additionally, in Type II diabetics, the cells of the body that utilize glucose for metabolic energy cannot absorb the extra glucose as quickly as it is produced.

Foods that often raise the blood sugar more quickly than diabetics can metabolize it include: sugar, alcohol, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose (fruit sugar) (in some people), white bread, white rice, white potatoes, pasta, and other simple carbohydrates and starches.

Foods that raise the blood sugar less quickly include whole grains, sweet potatoes (yes!), brown rice, vegetables, dairy products, and protein.

Because everyone likes to eat, diabetics included, the food industry has created a whole line of products sweetened with artificial sweeteners and alcohol sugars. The artificial sweeteners (Nutrasweet, Splenda, Truvia) are very low in calories and therefore do not elevate blood glucose like natural sugars. They are commonly found in diet drinks and sometimes in frozen confections and ice cream. These sweeteners do not bake or cook like sugar, however, and will not produce the same results as sucrose if substituted for sugar in a recipe. For baked goods Splenda Sugar Blend comes closest to producing the same texture and taste as regular sugar – because it contains half sugar, half Splenda.

Because the artificial sweeteners don’t work well in all situations, foods sweetened with alcohol sugars have come on the market. The alcohol sugars have about as many calories as regular sugar but do not elevate blood sugar levels as quickly. Alcohol sugars are used to sweeten “no sugar added” products including chocolates, other candies, ice cream, frozen confections, not to mention no-sugar-added pie. Cracker Barrel and Marie Callender, for example, both offer no-sugar-added pie. However, a single slice has nearly 500 calories, which is still too many for most diabetics to enjoy for dessert. The total number of calories in the daily diet is usually more important than the source of the calories. If you eat more calories than your body uses as a day, they will be stored as fat, which will only make diabetes worse.

Ideally a diabetic should eat the same food everyone else should eat: plants, mostly leaves.

If we all ate only what we could grow, we’d all lose weight. I’ve never known anyone to gain weight eating only lettuce, tomatoes, celery, carrots, apples, cucumbers, onions, peas, green beans, squash, bananas, melons, peaches, grapes, and plums. But adding salad dressing, or sugar, or butter, or frying these foods doubles or triples the calories and gets us in trouble.

For Type II diabetics, the overall answer is, number one, to eat less overall. Reduce your daily calories, lose weight, and your blood glucose is sure to be better controlled. Beyond that, limit simple sugars and carbohydrates (the “white” foods – sugar, flour, bread, pasta, rice, cereal, potatoes), especially processed foods. And if at all possible, find some sort of enjoyable exercise to substitute for the pleasure you derive from eating.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.