A summary and some stunning statistics
I am a diabetic, a person who suffers from the disease called diabetes, a disease that is growing at a fast rate in North America where in the United States and Canada there are now more that 25 million people diagnosed as being diabetic and where another 6 million are estimated to have the disease and do not yet know it, probably because they have not visited a doctor of late. And it gets worse, the forecast by health authorities is that one in three children born from this moment on will end up with diabetes. And a stunning number of 57 million people have the condition called pre-diabetes, referred to in the text below. And a major problem linked to diabetes is the similarly growing incidence of obesity.
So what is diabetes?
There are three main types of diabetes and a few others less common. There is also a condition referred to as pre-diabetes – and that is a something to be watched for because, as its name suggests, it can lead to the real thing, not a happy prospect for anyone.
It is generally accepted by the medical profession that there is no cure for diabetes and the condition must be contained and controlled within a specific tolerable range by the adoption of appropriate lifestyle changes. Those include more healthy dietary approaches that are even better if accompanied by exercise and perhaps weight loss and possibly medication to assist in controlling the levels of glucose that enter the bloodstream after eating.
But some say it IS curable
However, having said that there is no cure, I must add that there are a number of quite renowned and successful medical practitioners who insist that by adopting certain dietary approaches the disease can be brought under control until it does not manifest itself and the diabetes will, in effect, not exist for the individual who follows and adheres to that approach. The gestational form of diabetes, mentioned below and not very common, is a temporary diabetic condition suffered by a small percentage of pregnant women.
The three main types of diabetes are known as type-1 diabetes, type-2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes, of which type-2 is by far the most common, making up about 90 to 95 percent of all cases.
In the past, but less so nowadays, type-1 and type-2 were referred to respectively by the more descriptive names of juvenile diabetes and adult-onset diabetes.
Sadly, type-1 diabetes is most often a disease that develops in childhood or in young adults, although it sometimes strikes adults. It is called an autoimmune disease that occurs when the individual’s immune system fails to function properly. The immune system is the collection of biological processes in the human body that normally protects us all against disease. But instead, in the case of type-1 diabetes, the immune system actually destroys cells in an organ of the body, called the pancreas, which make insulin. The result is that from that time on, the type-1 person must take insulin each day to stay alive.
Insulin and glucose
Without insulin, the glucose produced from the food we eat and that is needed to provide energy for all the body’s cells cannot be delivered into those cells and when that happens, life cannot survive for long. Without a source of insulin, a type-1 diabetic can fall into a life-threatening coma. A parent of a diabetic child lives with that constant fear and concern that such an event might occur.
The most common form of diabetes, is a condition in which an above normal level of glucose exists in the blood. That can occur for more than just one reason but most likely due either to insufficient insulin being produced by the body or resistance by the cells of the body to the insulin that is being produced. And it may be a combination of both of those factors.
The role of insulin
Insulin is needed to join with the glucose in the bloodstream and aid in the delivery of the glucose to the trillions of cells in the body where it is needed. It is the insulin’s ability to interact with the receptors that exist on the outer membrane of the cells, in a way acting like a mediator, that enable the process to take place to completion.
To illustrate, in the process, the insulin acts like a key that opens a door to a cell allowing the glucose to enter into the cell. Without that key, without insulin, the glucose cannot be absorbed. And that would lead to a dangerous life threatening situation if not remedied promptly.
Is a usually temporary form of the disease developed by some women, usually late in their pregnancy, who may not even be aware of it because no symptoms are exhibited. It is not common, occurring in perhaps about 5 percent or more of pregnancies but one unfavorable outlook for the mother is that there is a 40 to 60 percent chance of them later becoming full type-2 diabetics by about 5 to 10 years later.
What is pre-diabetes?
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there are 57 million people in the United States who have pre-diabetes. People with pre-diabetes have higher than normal blood glucose levels but levels not high enough for a confirmed diagnosis of diabetes. In pre-diabetes there is an increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes, and research indicates that damage to the body does occur especially in the cardiovascular system, meaning both the heart and the circulatory system, and that can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Important research relating to pre-diabetes
An important clinical research study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) showed that type-2 diabetes is preventable by adopting lifestyle changes that includes improved eating habits, adding or increasing physically active, and weight management. The weight target is to get down to a body mass index of 25 or less and to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a chart of human body weights related to height and is used by doctors to aid in determining the degree of variance, if any, of a patient’s particular readings with known acceptable index values.
Diabetes is not contagious, it is not a disease that others can catch but in some cases it may have a heredity genetic component so that more than one member of the family may develop the disease. But the cause is really unknown although certain factors are known to increase the possibility of developing diabetes.
Type-2 diabetes is especially associated with obesity and is considered to be a lifestyle disease of the developed western world associated with our generally more sedentary life. The incidence of diabetes is increasing as we, as a population, consume more readily available foods that are rich in fats and contain more calories than we need to sustain our levels of energy output.
Incidence of diabetes
According to data from the Multinational Project for Childhood Diabetes by the World Health Organization, type 1 diabetes occurs equally among males and females but is more common in whites than in non-whites
Type-1 diabetes is uncommon in most African, American Indian, and Asian populations while some countries of northern Europe, including Finland and Sweden, have high rates of type 1 diabetes. The reasons for these differences are unknown. As mentioned above, type-1 diabetes develops most often in children but can occur at any age.
Type-2 diabetes is more common in older people, and overweight people and occurs more frequently in African Americans, indigenous native Americans, and some Americans of Asian origin, Hawaiians and other Americans of the Pacific Islands. Also it is more common among Latin Americans, a segment of the population that is growing faster than the rest.