Diabetes is a medical condition characterized as the inability to efficiently produce or respond to insulin, resulting in abnormalities in the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates and to a rise in the sugar or glucose levels in the blood and urine.
A quick look at diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes
Usually develops at a young age, this is a disease in which the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin.
Type 2 diabetes
The more common diabetes type, especially among people who are 40 years of age or older. This is a disease in which the body fails to properly metabolize sugar.
These two diabetes types do not really trigger noticeable symptoms early on, but they can cause the following to appear eventually:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Increased thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Infections in the skin, gums, vagina, or some other body parts
- Slow-healing cuts, wounds, sores, etc.
Diabetes can strike anyone. However, there are a number of risk factors that make certain people more likely to get it than others. Below are the common risk factors linked to diabetes:
History of the disease in the family
If you have a parent or a sibling that has diabetes, your odds of developing the disease are higher than someone who does not have any family history of the disease.
If you are overweight or obese, your body has more amounts of fatty tissue. As a result, your cells develop a higher resistance to insulin, increasing your risk of diabetes.
If you are 40 years old or older, you may not be as physically active as your younger self, you may have lower muscle mass, or you may have gained weight over the years, so your risk of diabetes increases.
If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you are at greater risk of diabetes compared to someone who gets regular physical activity. This is because exercise is the key to healthy weight maintenance, metabolism of glucose, and insulin function.
High blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure (i.e. a blood pressure that is higher than 140/90 mmHg), your likelihood of developing diabetes is high.
If you have high cholesterol, you have an increased risk of diabetes.
The importance of blood sugar testing
To determine how much glucose or sugar is present in your blood, you need to take a blood sugar test. If you experience any of the diabetes symptoms enumerated above, your doctor may recommend that you take a blood sugar test to help them make a diagnosis.
Taking a blood sugar test is quick and easy. It requires a device called glucometer, which is about the size of the palm of your hand and battery-operated. You just need to prick your finger to draw a sample of your blood that you have to put on a glucose meter strip. The machine then analyzes the blood on the strip and should be able to flash the result on the small screen in about 15 to 20 seconds.
Below are the normal blood sugar level values, depending on the time of the day the test is taken:
- Before breakfast – under 70-99 milligrams per deciliter
- Before lunch, snacks, and dinner – under 70-99 milligrams per deciliter
- Two hours after eating a meal or snack – under 140 milligrams per deciliter
If your test result shows a value that falls within the normal range, then you are all good. However, if your reading shows a higher number, around 80-130 milligrams per deciliter or more, you probably have diabetes and need to discuss with your doctor what you should do as soon as possible.
You should get your own home glucometer kit if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. It lets you keep track of your blood sugar levels at home, and it is basically risk-free, with zero or just a few minor side effects, such as some swelling, bruising, or soreness at the puncture site.
Complications linked to diabetes
In the long-term, diabetes can lead to severe complications that can significantly lower the quality of your life or even be life-threatening. Below are a few examples of possible health problems that you may encounter the longer you have diabetes:
Coronary artery disease
This is a condition in which the coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked due to the buildup of fatty and cholesterol deposits on the inner artery walls. Some of its usual warning signs are nausea, vomiting, chest pains, dizziness, fatigue, and heartburn.
This occurs when a segment of your heart muscle dies because of a blood supply disruption usually caused by a blood clot. Examples of common heart attack symptoms are shortness of breath, tightness in the chest or arms, fatigue, cold sweat, and lightheadedness.
This happens when there is damage to the blood vessels or units in the kidneys that are in charge of cleansing the blood. Common warning signs include swelling of the hands, feet, or ankles, an increase in blood pressure, appetite loss, vomiting, and nausea.
Nerve damage in the foot
This occurs because of poor blood flow to the lower limbs, resulting in infections, slow-healing blisters and cuts, and other foot complications.
Tips to keep your blood sugar normal and prevent diabetes
Unfortunately, if you have type 1 diabetes, you cannot escape it. You have to deal with it for the rest of your life. But, you can prevent type 2 diabetes by making smart and healthy lifestyle choices, such as:
If you are overweight or obese, you need to start shedding off those extra pounds now to reduce your risk of diabetes.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet
Include more foods that are low in calories and fat in your day-to-day meals.
Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a few times a week can positively impact your overall health.