Insidious Effects of Diabetes

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Diabetes is a health condition affecting the way your body digests food and produces energy. When functioning normally, your body digests sugar (carbohydrates) and breaks them down to a basic sugar, called glucose. Glucose then enters your bloodstream where it circulates to all parts of your body then enters cells to be utilized as fuel. Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, is the “key” that assists the glucose enter the cells.

A healthy pancreas adjusts the amount of insulin needed to match the amount of blood glucose. However, in diabetics, this process is interrupted and blood sugar levels become too high. Two types of diabetes exist. Those with Type 1 diabetes are unable to create insulin, while those with Type 2 diabetes are able to generate insulin, but their cells can’t process it. In both cases glucose can’t enter the cells resulting in high blood glucose levels.

Over time, this constant high blood glucose can cause serious damage to your heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nervous system. Worst case scenario, if you fail to manage your diabetes, you could become blind as a result of diabetic retinopathy, lose a foot or hand due to a lack of circulation, require dialysis to combat lost kidney function or even die.

Diabetes impacts almost every organ in your body. The only way to prevent this damage is to prevent excessive high glucose levels. Many of the effects and complications of diabetes, particularly those involving the eyes, kidneys and nerves can be significantly reduced by keeping your blood glucose level below 150.

Recent studies have discovered that stress has a direct impact on blood glucose as stress causes an elevation in adrenaline levels in addition to increasing other hormones. Adrenalin can make your body more resistant to the effects of insulin, so regardless if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, stress can raise your blood glucose levels.

The American Diabetes Association advises those without symptoms but at risk for Type 2 diabetes be tested every year. This group would include anyone over 45, women with diabetes during a pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or with a baby born weighing over 9 pounds, anyone obese, living a sedentary lifestyle, anyone having high blood pressure, and those with a family history of diabetes.

Most health care professionals are experienced in recognizing and diagnosing diabetes since it’s so common. Primary care physicians diagnose it most frequently in patients with or without symptoms. Eye doctors often diagnose when patients complain of blurry vision, a common first symptom. Emergency room doctors, podiatrists who see early nerve damage in the feet, cardiologists, vascular surgeons and nutritionists are also likely to recognize and diagnose diabetes.

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