The Danger of Diabetes: How It Affects the Body
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic illness that is on the increase around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people diagnosed with the disease increased from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.
While our awareness of diabetes has improved significantly over the last few decades, there are still some misconceptions about the condition and how it affects the body.
To begin with, the potential of dying from other chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer has come down but the mortality for diabetes has gone up.
Here we look at what diabetes is, what causes this disease and how simple lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing it.
What is Diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1 generally develops in young children. The affected individual doesn’t produce enough insulin which is used to help metabolize sugar. Those who have this type of diabetes take insulin injections to help them manage their condition throughout lifetime.
- Type 2 diabetes develops in later life and happens when the body becomes insulin resistant or doesn’t produce enough to maintain blood sugar levels. It is often associated with obesity and a poor diet.
The symptoms of diabetes can be difficult to spot and people are often diagnosed long after onset when other health complications come to light.
Causes of Diabetes
While type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by a problem with the autoimmune response that damages the pancreas, type 2 diabetes is generally attributed to environmental factors such as a poor diet and lack of exercise.
In a healthy person, insulin is produced by the pancreas and enables sugar in the bloodstream to move into cells and be used as a source of energy. If someone is insulin resistant, this glucose stays in the bloodstream.
People with diabetes can feel tired all the time, have increased levels of hunger and thirst and suffer from blurred vision. The major risk factor for type 2 diabetes is being overweight and it’s no surprise that cases have gone up as obesity has seen an increase in the general worldwide population.
Pregnant women can, in rare circumstances, develop gestational diabetes which can be fairly easily controlled and normally disappears after birth. However, this can also mean that the individual can be at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes in their later life.
Health Complications Associated With Diabetes
If diabetes is allowed to run out of control it can lead to more than just general symptoms of fatigue. There several serious health complications associated with the disease:
Individuals with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer heart and circulation problems. This could include damage to the blood vessels leading to leg cramps and loss of sensation.
If someone has diabetes, they are also more likely to develop eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts. A less common condition that affects the small blood vessels in the eyes, called diabetic retinopathy, is also more likely to occur in those with diabetes.
Along with cardiovascular issues, diabetes can cause nerve damage in the extremities, especially the toes and fingers. The nerves serving internal organs can also be affected causing digestive issues and problems with sexual function.
People who have uncontrolled diabetes are also more prone to issues with their kidneys. The disease is now the leading cause of kidney failure in US adults today.
Someone with diabetes is at a higher risk of developing gum disease so it’s important to have a good hygiene regime and visit the dentist regularly if diagnosed.
There are a range of different diabetes risk factors and being aware of these can make it easier to practice prevention. By making certain lifestyle choices, blood sugar levels can be controlled and, in some cases, the effects of diabetes reversed.
- Eat healthily: The biggest risk factor with diabetes is being overweight. Individuals need to take control of effective management and that means making healthy food choices. Avoid sugary and processed foods and include high-quality protein and vegetables in the diet.
- Lose weight: As most people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, weight management is essential and losing a few pounds can make a big difference.
- Exercise: Along with eating healthily and losing weight, a regular exercise regime is also important. This can help with weight loss and reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Alcohol and smoking: As with other chronic illnesses, too much alcohol and smoking have a detrimental effect and can increase the risk of developing diabetes.
While diabetes is still on the increase worldwide, there is a lot the individual can do to reduce their risk of developing this chronic disease. These options can also be used to reduce the impact for someone already diagnosed diabetes and, in some cases, even reverse the condition.