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What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious health problem which affects the body’s ability to properly use blood glucose for energy.  According to the American Diabetes Association, 11 millions are diabetic and only half are aware of their condition.

In Type I diabetes, daily injections of insulin are necessary because the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, a hormone which helps the body use blood glucose.  Type I or insulin-dependent diabetes is not necessarily age-specific, but it does occur most often in children and young adults.  It may be caused by viral infections or autoimmunity, where the body destroys its own cells.

Type II Diabetes, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes, accounts for 90% or 10 million of all cases.  This type of diabetes occurs most often in obese adults over age 40.  In type II diabetes, the pancreas produces some insulin but the body is unable to use it effectively.  Proper diet and weight control are most often used to help control Type II diabetes although medication is sometimes required.

How Can Diabetes Be Prevented? 

The best defense against diabetes is early detection and treatment.  If left unchecked, diabetes can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and severe infections.

Diet & Weight Control: If your weight is 20% greater than your ideal weight, you are at risk for developing diabetes and its related complications.  Excess body fat can overwork the pancreas and cause the body to become insulin-resistant.  This condition can lead to diabetes and related complications such as heart disease and circulatory problems.  To reduce the risk of health problems related to diabetes proper nutrition and regular exercise are recommended to achieve and maintain an ideal weight.

Personal & Family History: Having a personal or family history of diabetes, or its related complications increases the risk of future health problems.  Black Americans between the ages of 45 and 65 are twice as likely to develop diabetes as whites in the same age group.  Americans of Latin ancestry are three times more likely to have diabetes than non-Latins.  Native Americans have the highest rate of diabetes of any population in the world.  Also at risk are women who have had more than one baby weighing over 9 lbs. At birth.  Gestational diabetes is another type of diabetes that should be checked during the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

Related Risk Factors: These risk factors are associated with complications related to diabetes.  Use wise choices to control these lifestyle factors and minimize your future health risks.

Alcohol: Alcohol is high in calories and low in nutrient value.  People who drink large quantities of alcohol tend to have poor nutritional habits.  Avoidance or careful use of alcohol can be the key to a happier and healthier life.

Cholesterol: High cholesterol is a major risk factor associated with heart attacks and stroke.  This fatty substance in excessive levels can cling to artery walls and restrict blood flow.  Reduce the fat in your diet to help control cholesterol. 

Blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage the heart, blood vessels and other organs, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.  Blood pressure should be checked regularly.

Exercise: A program of regular exercise has been shown to be a necessary component for optimal health.  Evidence suggests that exercise can improve the body’s response to insulin and make the insulin more effective in glucose utilization.  Consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.  A thorough physical exam helps ensure a safe start.

 

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