AGING CONDITIONS: DIABETES
Diabetes is a disease in which the
body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin
is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches
and other food into energy needed for daily life. The
cause of diabetes is not clearly defined, although both
genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and
lack of exercise appear to play roles.
Diabetes is not exclusively an aging condition, but
factors of aging tend to lead to a predisposition to
develop type 2 diabetes. Nearly one third of those suffering
from diabetes have not yet been diagnosed. Early detection
of diabetes symptoms and treatment can decrease the
chance of developing the complications of diabetes
Diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos,
Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes - results from the
body's failure to produce insulin, the hormone that
"unlocks" the cells of the body, allowing
glucose to enter and fuel them. It is estimated that
5-10% of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have
type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes - results from insulin
resistance (a condition in which the body fails to properly
use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency.
Most Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have
type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes - affects about
4% of all pregnant women - about 135,000 cases in the
United States each year.
Pre-diabetes - condition that occurs
when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than
normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2
diabetes. There are 41 million Americans who have pre-diabetes,
in addition to the 20.8 million with diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Increased fatigue
- Blurry vision
Compliations of Diabetes
Complications caused by diabetes typically take years
to develop. They occur as a consequence of a process
that occurs with high blood-sugars. These sticky sugars
gum up the blood vessels, triggering many biochemical
changes. These changes include an increase in harmful
free radicals that injure blood vessels and over time,
clog them with cholesterol-rich plaque deposits [atherosclerosis].
This process causes all the major complications of the
Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of cardiovascular
disease. People with diabetes have three times the risk
of heart disease and five times the risk of stroke compared
with non-diabetics. About 40 percent of nondiabetic
Americans die from cardiovascular disease. Among diabetics,
the figure is 70 percent.
Diabetes narrows the blood vessels in the legs and
feet, reducing the volume of healing blood supply to
minor wounds, especially in the extremities. Diabetic
foot wounds are particularly slow to heal, and may not
heal at all. This can lead to gangrene and require amputation.
Diabetics account for most of the nation's foot and
Diabetes narrows the blood vessels in the kidneys
(diabetic nephropathy), the kidney becomes overworked,
and eventually, may stop working. Renal failure is a
life-threatening condition that requires dialysis or
kidney transplantation. The vast majority of the Americans
on dialysis or waiting for kidney transplants are diabetic.
Diabetes also narrows the blood vessels in the eyes
(diabetic retinopathy), which can cause bleeding and
blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause
of adult blindness. Compared with non-diabetics, people
with the disease are four times more likely to go blind.
After 15 years of diabetes, 97 percent of people show
some signs of retinopathy.
Nervous System Impairment
When diabetes narrows the blood vessels that nourish
the nerves (diabetic neuropathy), tingling, numbness,
and persistent pain, is commonly experienced, usually
in the hands and feet. Neuropathy can also affect other
parts of your body. In the digestive tract, neuropathy
causes constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
In the urinary tract, it increases risk of bladder infections.
And it contributes to diabetic sex problems--possible
erection impairment in men, and loss of vaginal lubrication
Wellness Treatment of Diabetes
Along with diabetes medication, there are a number
of wellness lifestyle changes that will significantly
contribute to recovery. These include:
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These changes cause your cells to become less insulin
resistant (more "insulin sensitive"). As this
happens, you can often stop taking diabetes medication
and injecting insulin.
With these changes, the diabetes is not technically
"cured" as there is still a residual tendency
toward insulin resistance. This means that should you
reverted to your previous lifestyle, you could easily
become diabetic again. .
Until then, for practical purposes you no longer have
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