November is American Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness about the disease and about the burden that the impacted people carry. It is also a time to Stop Diabetes®! America Gets Cooking? to Stop Diabetes® is an initiative designed to inspire people to be more active and to eat nutritious food.
Diabetes mellitus is a global pandemic and has been known since 1532 B.C. when Hesy-Ra, an Egyptian physician, documented its symptoms. Ancient doctors diagnosed diabetes after finding that a patient’s urine tasted sweet. Another telltale sign was if bees swarmed around the patient.
Diabetes is as metabolic disorder in which the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, which causes elevated levels of glucose/sugar in the blood.
In 2014, an estimated 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, have diabetes, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. This includes 21 million who have been diagnosed with the disease, and 8.1 million who are undiagnosed.
Prediabetes, which affects an estimated 86 million Americans, is a condition in which patients have high blood levels of glucose or hemoglobin A1c that it is not high enough to be classed as diabetes. However, these patients have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Not everyone with prediabetes will develop the disease; however, a large percentage of those at high risk can prevent or delay diabetes with lifestyle interventions, weight reduction, and physical activity, the CDC advised.
In 2010, diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. Although diabetes is often underreported as a cause of death, the CDC said that in 2010 diabetes was mentioned as a cause of death in 234,051 death certificates.
There are 5 types of diabetes, according to Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N., and Peggy Moreland, R.N., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
- Type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, involves patients whose diagnosis is determined before the age of 30. However, it can be diagnosed at any age. Between 5 and 10% of patients have this type of diabetes, in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. These patients have to take insulin injections or to use an insulin pump, and they need to check their blood sugar often.
- Type 2 diabetes was previously called adult onset diabetes, but the CDC reports that this type of the disease is commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents. 90% of diabetics have Type 2 diabetes and an estimated 80% are overweight. In this case, the body either rejects the effects of insulin, or the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. “A healthy diet and exercise may not be enough to lower the blood sugar level to an acceptable reading, so oral or injectable medications may be necessary,” the Mayo staff said. “Talk to your doctor about monitoring your disease.”
- Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. It is caused by an increased production of hormones that make the body less able to use insulin. This type of diabetes often goes away after the birth of the child, but it puts the mother at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later. “Healthy eating and being active may decrease the risk of developing diabetes,” the Mayo nurses said.
- Surgically induced diabetes is when surgery is performed on the pancreas and the body’s ability to produce insulin may be compromised. It can be temporary or permanent.
- Chemically induced diabetes is when steroids, such as cortisone or prednisone, cause blood sugar levels to be higher than normal. Treatment may include oral diabetic medications or insulin.
The common symptoms of diabetes include the following, but Type 2 diabetics may have symptoms so mild they can go undetected, reported the American Diabetes Association, Alexandria, Virginia.
- Frequent urination
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling hungry, even though you are eating
- Excessive fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- With Type 1, there may be weight loss, even though you are eating more
- With Type 2, there may be tingling, pain, or numbness in hands and feet
People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing many serious health problems, according to the International Diabetes Foundation, Brussels, Belgium. They include:
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Kidney disease.
- Nerve disease.
- Eye disease.
- Pregnancy complications.
- Lower limb amputations.
Nine out of 10 people with Type 2 diabetes could prevent the disease by keeping their weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthful diet, and not smoking, according to the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. Other useful suggestions include:
- Choose whole grains and whole-grain products over highly processed carbohydrates. Avoid white bread, white rice, mashed potatoes, donuts, bagels, and sugarcoated cereals.
- Skip sugary drinks and choose water, coffee, or tea.
- Select good fats, such as liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, instead of trans fats.
- Limit red meat and processed meats, and choose nuts, whole grains, poultry, and fish.
- Quit smoking, and limit alcohol intake.
With increasing deaths from diabetes and increasing prediabetes cases, it is important to test your glucose levels for precautionary reasons—especially since the disease can increase your risk of developing many more serious health problems. Keep an eye out for the symptoms but also keep in mind that symptoms can be mild and therefore go unnoticed. Since Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, be precautionary and follow the appropriate steps!
Join the American Diabetes Association and visit online to get tips on how to stay healthy throughout the holiday season, to learn how to host a food-themed event, and to vote for your favorite recipes to help create the perfect holiday meal!