As you get older, your 'glucose intolerance' rises. That is the sugar levels in the blood, as reflected in the rises following administered glucose or food, tend to increase. If the glucose levels in the blood get too high — and especially if they rise into or above the range of 140 mg (after fasting) to 200 mg (after eating), then you have developed "Diabetes mellitus".
Diabetes is the diagnosis when the body does not produce enough or properly use insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that is needed to convert food into energy. The 'sugar link' stems from the fact that much of what we eat for energy is broken down into sugar called glucose, the fuel that is fed into every single cell to keep us alive. And people with diabetes must limit their sugar intakes because sweets can make blood sugar rise dramatically.
In healthy people, glucose is automatically absorbed by the cells. The body uses exactly what it needs and stores the rest. But without insulin to unlock cell receptors so that glucose can enter, excess amount of this sugar accumulates in the blood stream, where it causes a host of problems that age them before their time.
Nearly seven million people have diabetes — and half of them are unaware of it. Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death by disease in the United States, between the ages of 45 and 66. The usual symptoms are those of fatigue and weakness, frequent urination, weight loss, blurred vision, skin infections, itching and unusual thirst. Classically the symptoms are described as polyuria (increased urine), polydypsia (increased thirst), polyphagia (increased appetite). The late complications of diabetes include stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, impaired leg circulation and nerve damage and development of cataract. Diabetes can debilitate both vascular and neurological systems and cause sexual dysfunction.
There are two types of diabetes. With
Type-1 diabetes, which accounts for only 10 percent of cases, the body completely fails to produce insulin, so daily injections of insulin are required. Type 1, often referred to as juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed during puberty. The symptoms are sudden and very noticeable: extreme hunger and thirst, sudden weight loss and extreme fatigue and irritability.
Type 2 (or adult onset) diabetes is the more common type. The pancreas produces insulin, but not enough. There may be some symptoms — slow healing cuts or bruises, recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections or slight tingling or numbness in the hands and feet — but many people do not notice these subtle changes or simply shrug them off.
Diabetes is a subtle disease that just creeps up on people -and the results can be devastating. That is why it is important to get a blood screening done for elevated glucose levels, especially if you have a family history of the disease, are overweight, are over the age of 40 or have any symptoms. People may be unaware that they have the disease because they feel fine.
||BEATING THE ODDS
The best way to avoid diabetes is to watch your weight. That means eating a healthy diet that focuses on fruits and vegetables. Being overweight is the major risk factor for adult-onset diabetes. This is important for everyone but is essential if you have a family history of diabetes.
- Eat right: That means low-fat and high fibre, with at least five searvings of fruits and vegetables a day. The problem: Dietary fat readily converts to body fat, and body fat induces cells to resist insulin. Meanwhile, try to consume at least 25 grams of fibre daily from complex carbohydrate foods, which help put the brakes on glucose entering your blood stream and also keeps cholesterol low which is important for people with diabetes, who face higher risk of heart disease. The best sources of complex carbohydrates are potatoes, wholegrain bread, rice, pastas, legumes, oats and barley.
- Time it right: If you have diabetes, you need to eat every four or five hours. Small meals are best, since large meals make it tougher for your body to meet the increased demand for insulin. The key is to evenly distribute your food throughout the day, so no single meal overwhelms the pancreas.
- Avoid sugar and salt: You should avoid sugar; for even in tiny amounts, it can send your blood sugar sky-high. Of course, low sugar and low salt are good dietary rules for everyone to follow, but those with diabetes must be especially careful. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (NutraSweet). But also be on the look out for low-sodium or reduced sodium products. Salty foods can raise blood pressure, a dangerous foodstuff for people with diabetes.
- Get your heart pumping: Regular aerobic exercise not only helps you control your weight but also makes cells receptive to insulin. You need to get your heart going and keep it going for at least 20 minutes. You need not do anything fancy; a brisk walk is fine. People with diabetes need to exercise with care. The main concern for exercise and diabetes is the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. To avoid this, stick to a routine requiring the same amount of exercise at the same time daily.
- Pump some iron, too: Weight lifting also plays a role in improving glucose tolerance, the body's ability to metabolize sugar properly. However, check with your doctor before starting a weightlifting programme. Resistance training may cause surges in blood pressure.
- Take vitamins E and C: These two antioxidants tend to be in short supply among people with diabetes. Vitamin E helps improve the action of insulin. Good food sources include wheatgerm, corn oil and nuts, but you should take a supplement containing 400 IU each day. Because people with diabetes are prone to vascular disease, they may need to increase their intake of vitamin C 120 mg daily, the amount found in a guava or a glass of orange juice.
- Pretend you have a headache: Aspirin can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke among those with diabetes by as much as 20 percent. A daily dosage of one-half of an adult aspirin or one child's aspirin is recommended. But check with your doctor first as it is not recommended for people taking blood thinners or suffering from ulcers.
- Share your feelings: Learning that you have diabetes can be quite a blow, and many people actually find comfort in sharing their experiences with others going through the same thing. Meeting regularly with a support group can help you cope with the disease mentally and physically; it is also a good way to beat depression.
- Put a lid on stress: When you are under stress, certain hormones are activated that pump stored glucose into your blood stream. Conversely, stress management and taking time to relax improve glucose control. While group therapy is one way to relax, others include meditation and yoga.
It is always advisable to keep in close touch with your physician when designing diet for a diabetic condition. You may manage it with diet, weight loss and exercise alone. But sometimes taking care of certain diabetic problems may require medication such as the oral hypoglycaemic drugs or Insulin. Only a qualified physician can make this kind of recommendation.