An important awareness post by Cindy
Today’s post has nothing to do with declutter and everything to do with another subject dear to my heart.
As many of you know, my daughter Clara is one of the approximately 3 million people in the United States with Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. She was diagnosed at her 10th birthday check up. We had no idea that there was anything to be concerned about. Clara had gained weight during third grade until she had become worrisomely plump. In the months leading up to her 10th birthday, she had slimmed down and shot up in height, just like a healthy girl should. We were all breathing a sigh of relief that the “baby fat” was gone. Imagine my shock when our pediatrician told us that Clara had lost 15 pounds in the prior 3 months! The reason took less than one minute to uncover. You can be sure that was a life-changing day for everyone in our family.
What is diabetes? It has to do with sugar, right?
In diabetes, the body no longer produces insulin (Type 1) or the insulin that is produced is poorly used (Type 2). Insulin is a necessary bridge to transport simple sugars out of the blood stream and into the cells, where it is used for energy. No insulin equals no energy in the cells and an unhealthy build up of sugar in the blood stream. The sugar that the body uses for cellular energy comes from all consumed carbohydrates including carbs from bread, potatoes, fruit, some vegetables, rice, pasta, milk, and yes … sugar. For the diabetic, a bagel is not necessarily a better choice than a cookie.
My neighbor got diabetes when she was a little girl, but my grandma has it too
There are several types of diabetes, and they are not identical. The two main types are:
Type 1 diabetes, also called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. This is what Clara has. It is important to note that the name “juvenile” is misleading for two reasons. 1) Half the people who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are over the age of 18 (although typically younger than 35) and 2) anyone who gets diabetes as a child will still have it as an adult.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks and kills insulin-producing cells. The reason for this is not known. There is higher rate of Type 1 diabetes in families with the illness, but most people who are diagnosed, including Clara, are the only people in their family with the disease. It is incurable and without repeatedly, daily injections of insulin, it is fatal.
Risk factors have been associated with type 2 diabetes and include:
- Diet and physical inactivity
- Increasing age
- Family history of diabetes
- Ethnicity, especially African American, Mexican American, and Native American people
I worry I might have diabetes. How do I know?
Individuals can experience different warning signs, and sometimes there may be no obvious warning, but some of the signs of diabetes are commonly experienced:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss
- Lack of interest and concentration
- Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the flu)
- A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections
- Slow-healing wounds
A blood sugar (glucose) test can be completed within a minute with just a finger prick. You can often have it done at health fairs or at your doctor’s office. In the US, everything you need to monitor your sugar yourself is available over the counter at the pharmacy. You need a meter (usually about $20) and test strips (sold in bottles of 20 or 50, usually costing $1 each). Normal fasting blood glucose is below 100 mg/dl. A person with prediabetes has a fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl. If the blood glucose level rises to 126 mg/dl or above, a person has diabetes.
Know your sugar and track them! The onset of Type 1 diabetes is fast and furious, but Type 2 can be slow, slow, slow. You may not be aware of it, but all the while, damage is occurring.
Today, there is no cure for diabetes, but effective treatment exists. If you have access to the appropriate medication, quality of care and good medical advice, you should be able to lead an active and healthy life and reduce the risk of developing complications, which include:
- vision problems including blindness
- kidney problems, including complete failure leading to the need for dialysis
- numbness of the feet and hands
- wounds that heal slowly and become infect, sometimes leading to amputations
- increased high blood pressure
- increase risk of heart disease
Yikes! I don’t want that! What can I do?
Since the causes for Type 1 diabetes aren’t know, there’s also no way to prevent it. The good news is that it’s relatively rare and unlikely to strike those over 35. To prevent or assist in managing Type 2 diabetes:
- Stay active
- Maintain and healthy weight
- Eat healthy
- Do not smoke
- Monitor your sugar levels and be aware of complications possibly developing
The majority of this information can from my own knowledge and the website of the International Federal of Diabetes, which along with the World Health Organization, sponsors World Diabetes Day annually on November 14, the birthday of one of the researchers who isolated insulin, allowing those with Type 1 to live past diagnosis.