November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. As I sit back and reflect on the word ‘Diabetes’, I think of my grandmother, who I use to help take care of during one of her ‘Episodes’. I didn’t understand exactly what was going on with her, and as a child, there was only so much the mind of a five year old can grasp when it comes to understanding this life threatening disease. I remember getting up in the middle of the night always checking on her to make sure that she was ‘okay’. That she didn’t need sugar water. I remember going downstairs in the middle of the night to fix sugar water for her even thought I was extremely afraid of the dark but also understanding that if I didn’t make it, she could die. I remember, as I got older and had my first child, how Diabetes had taken her legs and finally her life. I also remember having kidney issues as a child, not understanding that at that moment, I had Type 1 Diabetes. Having over 35 years of 1st and 2nd hand knowledge of dealing with Diabetes in my family, I was very happy to write this article to touch on the importance of Diabetes. This article will take a look at this disease. It will review the symptoms and give you some facts on what Diabetes is and how to manage it. It will also discuss what Diabetes is NOT.
Please note: This information is not a substitute to seeing a doctor if you have concerns. This information is strictly to inform you of some basic facts regarding Diabetes. This Soror stresses that you speak with your Primary Care Physician (PCP) if you have concerns or a history of Diabetes in your family. Proper diagnosis is the first step to getting the proper treatment.
What is Diabetes?
The American Diabetes Association defines Diabetes as a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin (American Diabetes Association, 2013). There are 3 types of Diabetes: Type 1 or juvenile Diabetes, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 -Diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile Diabetes. In type 1 Diabetes, the body does not produce insulin.
Type 2 -Diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels. This is the most common form of Diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes– Pregnant women who have never had Diabetes before but who have high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational Diabetes (American Diabetes Association, 2013).
Facts about Diabetes and Complications of Diabetes
Data from the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet (released Jan. 26, 2011) shows that 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have Diabetes. Diabetes has been diagnosed in 18.8 million people with another 7.0 million people who go undiagnosed. 79 million people are diagnosed as pre-diabetic and there were 1.9 million new cases of Diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older in 2010. It is more common in African American and Hispanic cultures. If not properly controlled diabetic complications include heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, and nerve damage which can lead to amputation.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Diabetes is sometimes referred to as the silent killer. Early detection is the best treatment in helping to get Diabetes under control and avoid the complications that come with having Diabetes. The following symptoms of Diabetes are typical. However, some people with type 2 Diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed (American Diabetes Associations, 2013).
Common symptoms of Diabetes:
• Urinating often
• Feeling very thirsty
• Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
• Extreme fatigue
• Blurry vision
• Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
• Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type 1)
• Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have a family history of Diabetes, do not hesitate to voice your concerns with your Primary Care Physician. Taking this minor first step can help catch Diabetes early.
Myths about Diabetes
There are many myths about Diabetes that make it difficult for people to believe how serious Diabetes can be. There can be no misunderstanding; Diabetes is a potentially deadly disease. These myths can create a picture of Diabetes that is not accurate and full of stereotypes and stigma.
Myth: Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.
Fact: If you manage your Diabetes properly, you can prevent or delay Diabetes complications. However, Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with Diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 Diabetes.
Fact: Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Most overweight people never develop type 2 Diabetes, and many people with type 2 Diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.
Myth: Eating too much sugar causes Diabetes.
Fact: The answer is not so simple. Type 1 Diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease; type 2 Diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.
Myth: People with Diabetes should eat special diabetic foods.
Fact: A healthy meal plan for people with Diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone – low in fat (especially saturated and trans fat), moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on whole grain foods, vegetables and fruit.
Myth: If you have Diabetes, you should only eat small amounts of starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta.
Fact: Starchy foods can be part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is the key. Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas and corn can be included in your meals and snacks.
Myth: People with Diabetes can’t eat sweets or chocolate.
Fact: If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with Diabetes.
Myth: You can catch Diabetes from someone else.
Fact: No. Although we don’t know exactly why some people develop Diabetes, we know Diabetes is not contagious. It can’t be caught like a cold or flu.
Myth: People with Diabetes are more likely to get colds and other illnesses.
Fact: You are no more likely to get a cold or another illness if you have Diabetes. However, people with Diabetes are advised to get flu shots.
Myth: If you have type 2 Diabetes and your doctor says you need to start using insulin, it means you’re failing to take care of your Diabetes properly.
Fact: For most people, type 2 Diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many people with type 2 Diabetes can keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin, and eventually oral medications may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels normal. Using insulin to get blood glucose levels to a healthy level is a good thing, not a bad one.
Myth: Fruit is a healthy food. Therefore, it is ok to eat as much of it as you wish.
Fact: Fruit is a healthy food. It contains fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals. Because fruits contain carbohydrates, they need to be included in your meal plan. Talk to your dietitian about the amount, frequency and types of fruits you should eat.
Prevention is the best method to controlling Diabetes. You can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 Diabetes through a healthy lifestyle. Change your diet, increase your level of physical activity, maintain a healthy weight…with these positive steps, you can stay healthier longer and reduce your risk of Diabetes.
Information contained in this blog was quoted from the American Diabetes Association located online at http://www.Diabetes.org/ I invite everyone to research this site to get more complete information regarding Diabetes and what you can do to help you or a loved one deal with Diabetes and how to manage it properly.
By Soror. Diamond Khandr Meness
Sigma Upsilon Nu, SL Sorority