According to the American Heart Association, 18.3 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. And, The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse estimates that the disease affects nearly 7 million more people who have yet to be diagnosed. With diagnosis rates on a dramatic rise, it is important to understand the role of blood sugar and blood sugar stabilization in preventing and managing the disease.
Blood sugar, or glucose in the blood, is absolutely essential for the body to function. When glucose is consumed, it is absorbed through the intestines and enters the body’s cells, providing a powerhouse of energy for healthy cellular functioning. For someone with diabetes, too much glucose is in the blood much of the time. Reasons for this disorder could include a low functioning pancreas, insulin resistance, or metabolic disorders. Genetics and environmental factors may also play a part in the development of diabetes, and lifestyle choices can significantly impact the severity and manageability of the disease.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes display similar symptoms, and symptoms vary each moment of each day depending on how high blood sugar levels are. The Mayo Clinic identifies the following symptoms: thirst, frequent urination, hunger and weight loss, fatigue, vision problems, and infections. Type 1 diabetes can occur at any time, but most often is present during childhood. With Type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the insulin provided to the body by the pancreas, leading to increased blood sugar levels. In Type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to the insulin, and therefore cannot use blood glucose efficiently.
For someone who is predisposed to either type of diabetes, either due to genetics, age, a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, it is incredibly important to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Diabetes that goes untreated can lead to life-threatening complications. Complications of diabetes occur gradually, over time, but are serious. Most can be prevented through careful monitoring and treatment. Cardiovascular disease, one of the largest known killers in the United States, is a complication of diabetes, as is nerve damage that can cause numbing in the limbs and even internal damage, such as constipation and nausea. Diabetes can also cause kidney failure, problems with eyesight, foot and leg damage that requires amputation, bacterial and fungal infections in the mouth, Alzheimer’s disease, and even some cancers.
Regardless of the root cause for your diabetes, maintaining healthy blood glucose levels can be as simple as monitoring your levels regularly, improving your diet and increasing your physical activity level. Often times, in fact, diabetes can be kept in check without any sort of medication or insulin supplements. The first step, though, is to arm yourself with knowledge. If you show any of the above mentioned signs of diabetes, are over the age of 45, or are otherwise concerned with your blood glucose levels, start off by discussing it with your physician. With a little bit of monitoring and some medical history, your physician should be able to produce a diagnosis and get you on track to managing your blood sugar levels.