What You Need to Know About Diabetes
Welcome to another time with Big Jake.
As promised, I’m gonna be dropping some health topics from time to time.
This week, we are looking at diabetes.
Statistics indicate that diabetes is on the increase, and young adults are walking around who do not know they have diabetes, even though they are showing symptoms of the disease.
I watched a very heart-breaking video recently about a five-year-old boy who has diabetes! This little hero has been taught to inject himself with insulin every day! A sweet little boy, who should be running around with nothing to worry about, instead injects himself three or four times each day … and he could be injecting himself for the rest of his life!
That’s so sad, isn’t it?
What is Diabetes?
There’s a kind of sugar called glucose, and your body needs it to function. A car needs a battery to start up and move around, see? Yeah, so glucose is also like a battery for your body.
Normally, this is how things should work in your body:
- You eat.
- There is glucose in the food you eat, and this glucose enters your bloodstream.
- The glucose should not stay in your bloodstream; it should enter your cells.
- Something should open the doors of your cells so that the glucose can move from your bloodstream to the cells.
- There’s an organ in your body called the pancreas. It helps your body digest food.
- The pancreas makes a substance called insulin.
- Insulin is like a key that opens the doors to the cells of your body.
- So, the insulin now opens the cells, and the glucose in the blood can now enter the cells.
- The glucose, now in your cells, becomes energy.
- And your body gets the energy or power it needs to function.
But if someone has diabetes, what happens is this:
- Either his body can’t make this insulin
- Or the insulin doesn’t work in the body as it should.
- Since the insulin is not available or is not working properly, the doors of the cells cannot open properly.
- Given that the cells do not open, the glucose in the bloodstream stays in the bloodstream
- Since we continue to eat, more glucose enters the bloodstream, but since the cells are not opening for the glucose to move, the glucose now begins to pile up in the bloodstream
- Lots of sugar, [glucose] piling up in the bloodstream makes people sick, and they get diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
There is a third type, Gestational Diabetes, but we will not be treating that now.
Type 1 Diabetes
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can’t make insulin. Why? Well, doctors don’t understand this completely but it seems cells that make insulin in the pancreas get destroyed by a person’s immune system.
Okay, so the pancreas can’t make insulin, but when we eat the body gets glucose from the food. Since there’s no insulin to open the doors to the cells, the glucose stays in the blood.
So, if a person has Type 1 diabetes, his pancreas can never make insulin again. To fix this problem, a person with Type 1 diabetes needs to be given insulin through injection shots.
Type 2 Diabetes
Alright, we now know that in Type 1 diabetes the sufferer’s pancreas can never make insulin.
In Type 2 diabetes, however, the person’s pancreas can still produce insulin, but his body doesn’t respond in a normal way to the insulin, and so the glucose is not able to enter the cells as excellently as it should and do its job of supplying energy.
So, in Type 2 diabetes, although the pancreas produces a lot of insulin, the insulin doesn’t work properly, and so the pancreas still finds out there is high sugar in the blood, and it produces even more insulin, which still does not work well! It means the pancreas is overworking, right?
Well, the pancreas soon becomes worn out from working overtime, and when this happens it may no longer be able to produce enough insulin to control the glucose.
People with Type 2 diabetes mostly take only pills that help the insulin in their blood work better. Sometimes when it is not checked, a person with Type 2 diabetes may have to be given insulin injections too.
Causes of Diabetes
In Type 1 diabetes, doctors don’t know for sure what causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. Scientists think it has something to do with genes. Genes are like instructions for how the body works, and they are passed on by parents to their children.
Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. Doctors can’t even tell who would get it and who wouldn’t.
In Type 2 diabetes, again no one knows for sure what causes it, but experts think the following factors put people at greater risk:
- Being Overweight:
Most people who have Type 2 diabetes are overweight. In the past, it was overweight adults who got Type 2 diabetes. Nowadays, children and teenagers are developing Type 2 diabetes, probably because more children and teens are overweight.
- Hereditary Factors:
People with family members who have diabetes get diabetes more often. Also, people from specific parts of the world and backgrounds develop Type 2 diabetes more often.
- Age Bracket:
People who are older than ten years are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than younger kids. This is because our bodies produce extra hormones during puberty, and this may make some people resistant to insulin.
How Do People Know If They Have Diabetes?
The diabetic symptoms aren’t always obvious and because of this people may even have diabetes without knowing it. The symptoms sometimes take a long time to manifest.
Diabetic symptoms may include:
- Frequent Urination:
Since the body tries to get rid of the extra sugar in the blood, it results in a patient urinating a lot.
- Drinking a lot:
Because a patient is urinating a lot, it means a lot of water is passing out of his system. To replace this water, the body signals thirst more often, and so the patient drinks a lot of water.
- Feeling tired all the time:
Since the body can’t use sugar as fuel or energy, people who have diabetes feel tired all the time.
- Hunger Pangs:
They may eat a lot because the body is hungry for the energy it can’t get from sugar.
- Rapid Weight Loss:
Since the body can’t get enough glucose in the cells to use as fuel, the body begins to use fat and muscle as energy, and this results in rapid weight loss.
However, getting early treatment can control or stop these diabetic symptoms and reduce long-term problems.
To know your diabetic status quickly, doctors may test your blood samples for excess glucose and then recommend the appropriate treatment.
Living with Diabetes
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, don’t lose hope, and don’t give up!
Sometimes you may feel different from your friends because you need to take insulin. Be careful of what and how you eat and control your blood sugar level every day.
You may feel angry, depressed and helpless because your parents or friends are constantly in your face harping about your diabetic management.
Don’t give in to these negative tendencies!
Remember, family and friends, are there to love and support you! There are people with diabetes who play sports, travel, date, go to school and work just like everybody else! You are normal, as long as you accept who you are and take care of yourself!
You however need to:
- Check your blood sugar levels daily by testing a blood sample
- Take your medication every day. Remember to check your glucose level before taking your medication.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and pay special attention to the amounts of sugars and starches in the food you eat, and the timing of your meals
- Exercise regularly to help control blood sugar levels
- Have regular check-ups with the doctor
- Avoid wounds to the nerve endings like your toes and fingers.
Facts and Myths About Diabetes
Somehow, scary stories are going on about diabetes. How true are they, anyway? Okay, let’s try and sort the facts from the myths okay?
Will you get diabetes from eating too much sugar?
The causes of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are not related to how much sugar a person takes, as we have learnt. However, eating too much sugar will cause you to gain weight, and weight gain or being overweight increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Is it true that people with diabetes can never eat sweets?
However, you can’t eat as much as a person with no diabetes. Why? Because diabetic patients need to control the volume of carbohydrates they take in their diet. So you can have sweets, but do not eat too many sweets and other types of food that have high-calorie levels but are low in vitamin and mineral nutrients.
Can you outgrow diabetes once you have it?
In Type 1 diabetes your pancreas can never produce insulin again, and you will always have to take insulin until scientists find a cure.
People with Type 2 diabetes may find it easier to control blood sugar if they exercise regularly and eat the right kind of food … and this should be maintained because they would always tend to develop high blood sugar levels.
Can you feel when your blood sugar level is high or low?
You may feel some symptoms like weakness and fatigue when your sugar level is high or low, but the only way to know for sure is to test your sugar level with a blood sample.
Is it true that all diabetic patients need to take insulin injections?
Type 1 diabetics have to take insulin injections because their pancreas does not make enough insulin anymore. However, not all Type 2 diabetics take insulin injections. Most of them take pills.
Does insulin cure diabetes?
Diabetes is managed with insulin, but the insulin doesn’t cure diabetes. Insulin only helps the glucose get into the cells and doesn’t let it stay in the blood. Insulin doesn’t make diabetes go away.
Is your diabetes getting worse if you have to take more insulin?
Insulin doses are different for every person. How fast you’re growing, how active you are, how much you eat and other personal characteristics affect the amount of insulin you’ll need in a day. Insulin doses often need to be changed over time.
Can you stop taking insulin if you’re sick?
You can’t skip your insulin dose when you are sick, even though the doctor might adjust the insulin dose you take. You need energy when you’re sick, and this energy makes your body heal. Insulin helps you use that energy properly.
Is it true that you can’t exercise when you have diabetes?
Exercise is an important factor for diabetics. It is good for the heart and lungs. Exercise is good for blood sugar control. Your diabetes health care provider can help you select and maintain an appropriate exercise routine.
If I’m a diabetic low-carbohydrate diet is good for me because I should avoid carbohydrates
Carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy, and foods containing carbs should provide half of your calories each day. Low-carb diets tend to be high in proteins and fats. A high-fat, high-protein diet over a long time can be hard on the heart and kidneys.
People with diabetes are already at risk for kidney and heart disease, so adding a low-carb diet could cause problems. So, people with diabetes need to follow a diet that contains the right amount of carbohydrates while keeping blood sugar levels under control.
Talk to a dietician about the right kind of diet for you if you’re diabetic.
This is the end of this week’s Kleva Chat.
Next week, God willing, we will look at how to manage diabetes.
I will be available in the Kleva Chatroom on Sunday, May 29 2022 to answer any questions you have.
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