Did you know that November is National Diabetes Month?
Over 25 million people in the US have diabetes (over 8% of the population), the majority of whom have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes — only 5% of the diabetic population is affected by Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 and Type 2: The Differences
Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children or young adults and is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin.
Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult onset diabetes is typically diagnosed later in life; at one point, Type 2 was diagnosed only in people over 45. However, because of the rising obesity percentages over the last several decades, younger adults and even some children are being diagnosed with the disease. Type 2 develops when the body no longer is able to use insulin properly – for a time, the pancreas tries to compensate by producing the hormone, but over time it simply can’t keep up.
The good news is that Type 2 diabetes can not only be prevented, it can also be managed with due diligence. And keeping diabetes under control prevents diabetic complications at bay.
Complications and Risk Factors
One of the most disconcerting aspects of diabetes is that if unchecked or mismanaged, it can lead to uncomfortable and life threatening complications. Here are some of them, per the American Diabetes Association:
- Neuropathy, which causes numbness in the feet
- Skin infections and/or disorders
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney disease
- Renal Failure
- Peripheral Arterial Disease
Additionally, diabetes can cause vision problems; diabetics are at risk for glaucoma, cataracts and vision loss. According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes can weaken the blood vessels on and around the retina, or retinopathy, a disorder that doesn’t present until it reaches advanced stages. Regular eye exams can reduce severe vision loss by 95%.
Finally, those who suffer from Type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s in later life. A 2004 study published in the journal Neurology concluded that those who develop diabetes in midlife are significantly more likely to have Alzheimer’s 30 years later. Researchers surmise that high glucose levels in the blood “gum up” the brains ability to flush out abnormal clumping of beta-amyloid proteins.
Managing the Disease
The above list can be daunting, especially for those who have recently been diagnosed. But the good news is that keeping track of glucose levels and maintaining a diabetes friendly diet reduces risk significantly.
So does exercise — in fact, for those with diabetes, exercise is not optional, it’s an imperative. Here’s how it works: when a person is exercising, muscles can use glucose without insulin, so even if your body doesn’t produce insulin at all or doesn’t manage it properly, exercise reduces glucose levels in the blood, regardless.