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Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is called the silent killer because the symptoms are easy to miss. However, type 2 diabetes is preventable and reversible in many cases. Understanding diabetes and its causes is critical to preventing diabetes and life-threatening complications.

What Is Diabetes?

The human body turns much of the food you eat into glucose, or sugar, which the body uses for energy. The pancreas produces the insulin hormone, which helps you get glucose to your cells. When you have diabetes, your body is unable to process food properly for use as energy because you’re not producing enough insulin, or your body isn’t able to use its insulin as well as it should to break down sugar. This causes elevated levels of sugar in the blood.
Diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney damage and failure, nerve damage, blindness, and amputations of the lower legs and feet.

How Common Is Diabetes?

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017, about 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4 percent of the U.S. population, had diabetes. Another 84.1 million, more than one-third of the U.S. population, had prediabetes, which typically leads to type 2 diabetes within five years if left untreated. Nearly one in four adults living with diabetes don’t know they have it. People with diabetes are more likely to be men and minorities and have less than a high school education.
Diabetes is also the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC, and in the world, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the body can’t produce insulin because cells in the pancreas that make insulin are destroyed. Type 1 diabetes was once thought to be a childhood disease, but people of any age can have type 1 diabetes. In fact, more adults have type 1 diabetes than children. Researchers estimate that about 5-10 percent of diabetes cases are type 1 diabetes. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, although blood sugar levels can be managed with insulin, proper nutrition, and smart lifestyle choices to prevent complications.

Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common type of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which your body produces insulin, but the insulin isn’t being used properly or the body isn’t producing enough to keep your glucose at the proper level. This causes blood glucose levels to rise, resulting in hyperglycemia. Type 2 diabetes is highly preventable and very often reversible if you make smart lifestyle decisions involving your physical, nutritional and psychological well-being.

Causes of Diabetes

The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. Many scientists believe it is an autoimmune disease because the body’s immune system attacks cells in the pancreas, but the reason for this is still a mystery. Genetics and exposure to environmental elements and viruses could also play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes.

Although some people have a family history of type 2 diabetes and have a genetic predisposition, poor lifestyle choices are the more likely cause. Obesity, belly fat, poor nutrition, and a lack of physical activity increase the risk of type 2 diabetes because they make it more difficult for your body to use up glucose as energy.

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination (to remove excess sugar)
  • Increased thirst (resulting from frequent urination)
  • Constant hunger (because you’re not getting enough energy from food)
  • Fatigue (from lack of energy)
  • Blurry vision (from excess sugar)
  • Slow healing wounds (due to poor blood flow caused by excess sugar)
  • Neuropathy, which is tingling, numbness or pain in the hands or feet
  • Patches of dark skin
  • Itching and yeast infections (from excess sugar in the blood and urine)

Treatments for Diabetes

Both types of diabetes are diagnosed through blood testing. Treatment for type 1 diabetes typically includes taking insulin and frequent monitoring of blood sugar. What you eat and when you eat are both important. Meals should be coordinated with insulin doses and include whole foods with a low glycemic load to allow blood sugar to rise steadily instead of spiking and crashing. A personalized exercise plan will also help you maintain a healthy weight so the body can process food properly.

If you have type 2 diabetes, changing your diet and losing weight can help you restore and maintain normal sugar levels without medication. However, “eat right and exercise” isn’t specific enough and doesn’t go far enough. We recommend specific nutritional protocols and exercise programs based on the goals and physical condition of the individual. Blood sugar should be checked periodically when you have type 2 diabetes. If you’re on insulin, you’ll probably need to check blood sugar more than once per day.

Did You Know…

  • Diabetes received its name from the Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappodocia, who said symptoms of diabetes were constant thirst, excessive urination, and weight loss. Diabetes means “flowing through” in Greek.
  • The earliest known record that some historians believe referred to diabetes was in the Egyptian Ebers papyrus in 1,500 B.C, which referenced frequent urination.
  • Dr. Elliott P. Joslin was the first diabetes specialist. Also the first proponent of self-management, he started focusing on diabetes after his aunt was diagnosed with diabetes and was told there was no cure. She soon died of complications. Dr. Joslin helped his mother live 10 years after her diabetes diagnosis, which was very unusual back then. He eventually founded the Joslin Diabetes Center.

If You Have Diabetes or Tests Show Signs of Becoming Diabetic…

We can help. At Natural Healthcare Center, we don’t wait until you have diabetes to take action. From the time we see warning signs of prediabetes, we make recommendations to restore normal blood sugar levels and prevent the onset of diabetes. If you’d like to be evaluated for diabetes, schedule an appointment at Natural Healthcare Center.

Flagship Office

10 West End Court
Long Branch, NJ 07740
P: (732) 222-2219
(732) 229-8863
Monday: 8AM-7PM
Tuesday: 8AM–7PM
Wednesday: 8AM–7PM
Thursday: 9AM–3PM
Friday: 8AM–7PM
Saturday: 9AM–1PM
Sunday: Closed

Middletown Office

9 Leonardville Rd
Middletown, NJ 07748
P: (732) 671-9005
(732) 671-9006
Monday: 9AM–8PM
Tuesday: 10-3PM
Wednesday: 9AM–8PM
Thursday: 9AM–8PM
Friday: 9AM–6PM
Saturday: 10AM–1PM
Sunday: Closed