Diabetes is fast gaining the status of a potential epidemic in India. Today India has the second highest prevalence of diabetes after China. Research suggests that by the year 2035, a whopping 109 million Indians will be suffering from this disease. Despite having lower overweight and obesity rates, India has a higher prevalence of diabetes compared to western countries.
The cause behind diabetes is definitely much more than just being over-weight. You can be suffering from diabetes from as early as the age of 20 without even being obese!
It surely is startling but the first step towards prevention is the precaution. Thus, it is important to understand more about this disease than just classifying it as a part and parcel of old age.
Read on as we discuss the different types of diabetes and its causes.
Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that facilitates the uptake of glucose from the blood into most cells of the body, especially the liver, adipose tissue and muscles, to produce energy.
Sometimes insulin is not produced in sufficient amounts or the body doesn’t utilize the produced insulin effectively. This increases the amount of glucose present in the blood causing diabetes. Over time having too much glucose in the blood leads to several health problems. It can damage the blood vessels in your kidneys, heart, eyes, or nervous system. Thus, diabetes can eventually cause heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, blindness, and nerve damage.
Diabetes is of three types – Diabetes Type 1, Diabetes Type 2 and Gestational diabetes. There are several other types of diabetes but are of much lower incidence rates.
It is an autoimmune disease where the body is unable to produce insulin. The body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells (beta cells) present in the pancreas. Consequently, your pancreas stops making insulin. Without insulin, glucose can’t get into your cells and your blood glucose (or blood sugar) rises as a result. Type 1 diabetes is usually common in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes is partly inherited.
It occurs when the body develops insulin resistance. In this condition, the cells are unable to uptake glucose from the blood effectively, hence leading to a high blood sugar. The body, as a result, starts to produce more insulin to compensate for the ineffectiveness of its insulin by producing more, but it can’t always produce enough. Over time, the strain placed on the beta cells by this level of insulin production can destroy them, thus diminishing the total insulin production.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a condition where a woman develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. GDM is a combination of inadequate insulin secretion and responsiveness. It is quite similar to type 2 diabetes. It occurs in about 2-10% of all pregnancies and often improves or disappears after the delivery. However, some women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.
The symptoms of diabetes include:
For type 1 diabetes the symptoms can start within a few weeks. However, symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly over several years. It can go undetected for a long time as the symptoms can be mild and sometimes there are no symptoms at all. In most cases, type 2 diabetes is detected only when other diabetes-related health problems arise such as atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
There are no preventive measures for type 1 diabetes. However, maintaining a normal body weight, engaging in physical activities, and eating a healthy diet can prevent type 2 diabetes. A diet rich in whole grains and fiber, and unsaturated fats found in nuts, vegetable oils and fish can help prevent diabetes. Limiting saturated fats, sugar and sugary beverages can also be helpful. Maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help lower the risk of diabetes significantly.
You can manage diabetes by a combination of exercise, diet, body weight control and insulin injections. The treatment for type 1 diabetes involves regular insulin injections, as well as a special diet and exercise. Whereas the treatment for type 2 involves prescription medication, exercise and a special diet. Sometimes insulin injections are also required. Avoid smoking as both diabetes and smoking narrow blood vessels, which increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Urbanization and a sedentary lifestyle have only increased the prevalence of diabetes over the years. Thus, early detection is the key to the treatment of diabetes. You can also be at a risk for diabetes without being obese or above the age of 50. Thus, make sure to check your blood sugar levels at regular intervals.
Disclaimer: Insulin medications are absolutely necessary for certain patients and cannot be substituted through diet or lifestyle changes. Consult your doctor before you make any dietary modifications.