Diabetes; Its Types, Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Management
Diabetes is characterized by abnormally high glucose levels in the blood. According to the International Diabetes Federation's report for 2021, around 3.3 million people in Pakistan have diabetes. This phenomenon can occur due to a lack of insulin or the body's inability to utilize its insulin, depending on the type of diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to the rise of glucose in the blood. This hormone helps store that glucose in our muscles and liver.
Diabetes and its Types
Prediabetes is the stage when you are at risk of becoming diabetic but haven't yet suffered from it, and your glucose levels fluctuate off and on. Adults and children with prediabetes are at high risk of developing type-2 diabetes unless they make lifestyle changes.
2. Type-1 Diabetes
Type-1 diabetes is also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. In type-1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin due to the destruction of beta cells. As a result, glucose is not taken up by the cells and remains in the blood, causing high blood sugar levels.
Genetics and viral infections are generally considered the triggers of DM type-1 diabetes. Type-1 diabetes usually occurs in childhood or at the age of adolescence; however, it can also appear in adults.
3. Type-2 Diabetes
Type-2 diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes because it usually affects older adults. In this condition, insulin is produced, but the body cannot utilize it properly. Consequently, high glucose levels start appearing in the blood, alongside the pancreas releases more insulin to increase glucose uptake from the blood into the tissues.
With time, cells stop responding to insulin and eventually become insulin-resistant. In this condition, blood sugar and insulin are present. But, due to the insulin resistance of cells, the sugar is not taken up by the body tissues. And this is the reason that the body relies on secondary energy sources other than glucose.
Furthermore, too much sugar in the blood can cause heart and nervous system issues. This is the reason that most diabetic patients suffer from other complications as well.
4. Gestational Diabetes
Due to glucose intolerance, most pregnant women usually develop gestational diabetes during the third trimester of their pregnancy. And women with gestational diabetes are at high risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in life. Diabetes is also one of the reasons for complicated pregnancies.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
So, when our body cannot keep the sugar levels under control, the blood becomes concentrated, and we suffer from the following symptoms:
- Polyuria (frequent urination) and polydipsia (frequent thirst)
- Polyphagia, the increased feeling of hunger
- Unintentional weight loss
- Numbness & tingling sensation in arms & legs
- Blurred vision
- Constant and unusual fatigue
- Slow wound healing, especially foot wounds
- Increased risk of hypertension
Complications of Diabetes
Diabetes is not just about abnormally raised blood sugar levels. A person who doesn't take this issue seriously and keeps neglecting it may be diagnosed with multiple complications.
Suppose a diabetic person gets diagnosed with the problem and doesn't take care of it. In that case, they may experience vision, muscle movements, and kidney function issues. All these symptoms are named after respective pathologies, i.e., retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy.
Our retinas are supplied with essential nutrients through small blood vessels, which get damaged when blood sugar levels rise. This results in blurry vision; in severe cases, complete vision loss is known as retinopathy.
Our body excretes out metabolites and wastes with the help of the kidneys. But, when something keeps rising, again and again, it puts much pressure on the kidneys. This can lead to the damage of blood capillaries and result in kidney dysfunction, a condition termed nephropathy.
Another major complication associated with long-term diabetes is the development of various neuropathies. In this condition, our nerves get damaged, and our brain fails to transmit the signal properly to different body organs. Such a person can face symptoms like numbness, tingling sensations, and partial or complete paralysis in the targeted region.
4. Weak Immunity
This is another complication of diabetes. Diabetes weakens the immune system of people with diabetes. This is why diabetics are more susceptible to infection than healthy people. If they contract an infection or become injured, their wounds do not heal quickly.
What are the Risk Factors of Diabetes?
Obesity, a sedentary or inactive lifestyle, and genetic problems are factors that put you at risk of diabetes. We will be discussing all these factors one by one.
1. Obesity Can Take You to Diabetes
Once you start getting obese, it doesn't stop there; regularly increasing weight increases the risk of several chronic diseases. To name a few of them, we have diabetes and heart problems. It is observed that obesity can exponentially increase the risk of other conditions, particularly type 2 diabetes, by six times.
And unfortunately, the trend of obesity is increasing daily in Pakistan, which is also enhancing the onset of different health disorders. What happens in obesity is that the excessively stored fat cells in our body raise pro-inflammatory mechanisms that make our cells insensitive to insulin action. As a result, the pancreas keeps making the hormone, but it is of no use, and glucose levels in our bloodstream remain at their peak.
Another factor associated with obesity that leads to the early onset of diabetes is fat deposition in the liver. Out of many functions, one role of insulin is to move the extra glucose from the blood to the liver to be stored as glycogen. But due to excessive fat deposition inside the liver, there is no room for glucose to shift in.
And therefore, the glucose remains within our bloodstream, and blood sugar levels remain high. In response to this, our pancreas has to make & secrete massive levels of insulin to counter the unwanted rise in blood sugar.
This overburdens the pancreatic cells, and at one stage, the pancreas stops producing insulin, which then develops into diabetes. Therefore, keeping your weight in check is highly recommended and essential to prevent yourself from suffering from multiple chronic disorders.
2. An Inactive or Sedentary Lifestyle Can Activate Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is a condition in which our body cells become unable to benefit from the glucose-regulating effect of insulin. Certain factors, like obesity and an inactive lifestyle, can cause this issue. It is a commonly recommended guideline to stay active for a particular period in your routine.
This helps manage your healthy weight and decreases the risk of insulin resistance. When a person gets involved in some physical activity, the need for energy increases within his muscles.
This stimulates the gradual uptake of glucose from the blood to the targeted area. Hence, the glucose levels in the bloodstream start to come within the normal range. It also refers to improved insulin sensitivity toward our cells because insulin carries glucose throughout the body.
General activities like walking some steps after every meal, going for a daily morning walk, or doing a light-intensity workout for 20–25 minutes are highly beneficial.
However, in recent times of modern-day lifestyles, where the tendency to sit in one place or not do much physical work has dramatically increased, so have the risks of lifestyle-related diseases. Considering the outcomes of an inactive lifestyle, working out for around 20–25 minutes is highly recommended to live a healthy life without the risk of such life-threatening diseases.
3. Diabetes Runs into Families
Research has proven that diabetes is also a genetic problem. The changes in genes, which carry instructions for insulin production, can cause diabetes mellitus. Furthermore, diabetes also runs in the family. A person with a family history of diabetes is more likely to get it than one without one.
Is Diabetes Curable?
There is no specific cure for diabetes. However, if we maintain a healthy weight, type 2 diabetes is reversible in the early stages. The reduced body fat enhances insulin sensitivity in the body and ultimately increases glucose uptake by the body cells.
Although diabetes has no specific cure, it is certainly manageable. It can be managed by adopting healthy dietary habits, engaging in physical activity, and consuming herbal and good-quality food supplements containing potent antioxidants to help boost immunity.
Management of Diabetes
1. Healthy Dietary Modifications
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases, you must make the lifestyle modifications below to manage diabetes mellitus.
- Consume non-starchy low glycemic index vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, green leafy vegetables, peppers, and fruits such as oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes.
- Ensure adequate intake of protein such as lean meat, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds, and dried beans.
- Take low-fat dairy products.
- Lower your intake of fats and make sure to consume good and healthy fats such as canola oil, olive oil, fish, etc.,.
- Maintain a healthy weight to lower the risk of heart disease and other complications.
- Eat in portions, and control your meal portion according to the recommendation of your dietitian or nutritionist.
- Limit your salt intake.
2. Physical Activity for Healthy Weight Management
Light to moderate types of exercise, such as brisk walking and jogging, increase the gradual uptake of glucose from the blood into the body cells, hence improving insulin sensitivity. In addition, physical activity also boosts immunity so that the body can fight foreign particles and infections with great potency.
3. Role of Food Supplements in Regulating Blood Sugar Levels
Good quality food supplements also help manage blood sugar levels and boost immunity. Some of them include Glucofactor, Sensolin, and Glyzon Plus.
Benefits of Glucofactor
- Garlic extract present in it supports healthy blood sugar levels.
- Chromium present in it helps lowers LDL levels and cholesterol in the body by boosting metabolism.
- Vitamin D, Magnesium, Potassium, and Zinc are present in it to support a healthy immune system.
- Due to having B vitamins also helps minimize lethargy and tiredness.
Benefits of Sensolin
- Due to the presence of alpha lipoic acid, it provides antioxidant support to the body, helps reduces the numbness and tingling sensation in hands and feet.
- Supports healthy glucose metabolism and maintains blood sugar levels.
- As it contains folic acid, it helps minimize lethargy and fatigue associated with diabetes.
- Helps maintain general well being.
Benefits of Glyzon Plus
- Helps enhance the uptake of glucose in the cells and body tissues.
- Helps support energy production and healthy metabolism.
- Helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
- Supports bone and muscles health.
Diabetes is more prevalent than it has ever been in the world today. Besides older adults, younger people also need to be concerned about it. Because diabetes is becoming more prevalent in younger people, the more you understand it, the more you can avoid it, delay its onset, and lessen its complications.
So, take care of yourself and eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients, not just calories. Make a habit of doing physical activity for around 20–30 minutes daily to stay healthy and disease-free.
Additionally, if you have diabetes, pay a regular visit to your physician to check your blood sugar levels.