It’s a common thing for a person to leave a doctor’s office with absolutely no more knowledge of diabetes than when they first entered it. Sadly, there is not enough patient education out there, and that needs to stop.
In this two part series, I’ll discuss some minimal things that a person with diabetes should know, now that they’re diagnosed:
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to process glucose adequately, either because the pancreas has stopped producing enough insulin (a hormone naturally produced by the body, in charge of allowing glucose to enter our cells and tissues) or the body’s cells and tissues are unable to absorb glucose properly (they just can’t communicate well with insulin).
What is glucose?
Glucose is a type of sugar which the body derives from the foods we eat (mainly carbohydrates) as a source of fuel. Without glucose, we wouldn’t have the energy to live, or for our bodies to function. Glucose is derived from all carbohydrates – not just sugary sweets. Hence, having diabetes does NOT mean a person can no longer consume sugar. It simply means that a person has to balance their total carbohydrate consumption, so that their body does not get overwhelmed with more glucose than it can manage at any given time. Moderation and balance are key.
What causes diabetes?
While diabetes has many triggers, the actual causes of diabetes are unknown. Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar or fat (although overconsumption of any one food may lead to obesity – which may trigger a diabetes diagnosis.) Studies have shown that diabetes is predisposed in families, and this predisposition may be triggered by various factors — like age, ethnicity, obesity, pollution, smoking, alcohol consumption, taking certain medications like steroids, and other health conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, etc. While the majority of people with diabetes may be overweight, or obese, one does NOT have to be overweight or obese to be diagnosed with diabetes.
What is high blood sugar?
High blood sugar is having a blood glucose level higher than 100 mg/dL at fasting (12 hours of not eating), and higher than 140 mg/dL two hours after having had a meal. If your blood glucose levels are higher than this, you might be pre-diabetic. If your blood glucose levels are higher than 126 mg/dL at 12 hours of fasting or higher than 200 mg/dL at two hours after having had a meal – then you might be diabetic. It’s best to talk to one’s doctor for a follow up.
What are the consequences of high blood glucose?
High blood glucose overwhelms our body, causing it constant damage at the cellular level. When the body struggles to get rid of this excess glucose, it damages our organs – like our kidneys, liver, heart, and eyes, etc. The body – in an effort to keep up with this damage, starts producing extra cholesterol – a lipid in charge of many functions, including cellular repair and health. Excess cholesterol can then lead to fatty liver disease, heart disease, etc. Diabetes leads to a domino effect of complications (such as blindness, amputation, kidney failure, etc.) which can lead to a loss of quality of life, and even death.
Keep an eye out for the next post, where we’ll discuss what we can do to control blood glucose levels.