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Diabetes or diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic group of diseases characterized by abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood (blood sugar). Glucose, a monosaccharide or single sugar, is an essential source of physiological energy that supports respiration, cardiac rhythm, muscular contraction and ease, and body temperature. It also acts as a brain fuel.
Insulin is a hormone that accelerates oxidation of sugar in cells. It opens up a cell so the sugar can get in and transform to energy. When insulin production in the pancreas goes down and/or when the body cells do not respond right to it, blood sugar will increase in level.
High blood sugar patients experience polyuria (frequent urination due to production of large volumes of pale dilute urine), polydipsia (excessive thirst), and polyphagia (increased hunger). Patients can also experience the more general symptoms including hazy vision, fatigue, headache, skin irritation, and slow healing of wounds.
DM is divided into three categories: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational DM.
Type 1 DM occurs when the body unsuccessfully produces adequate insulin. A person may develop this type before his 40s. It is a lifetime illness that has no known cure but can be treated with insulin injections, healthy diet and right exercise. Patients are mostly children. No preventative measure is known for this type.
Type 2 is the most common DM. It occurs when cells fail to react to insulin or when the body fails to produce enough insulin. This type normally lasts for life; but some people are known to eliminate symptoms without undertaking medications through special diet and proper exercise. Patients may also have to inject insulin. The prevalence of this type is around 90%. Experts say that this type is primarily associated to the patient’s lifestyle and genetics.
Gestational DM is almost identical to type 2 DM. It is also caused by combination of poor insulin production and reactivity. It occurs during pregnancy. About 5-10% of pregnant women with this type are later found to have DM (usually type 2). Gestational DM is treatable but if it goes by untreated, the fetus and the mother may develop unwanted health conditions.
Prediabetes is a condition where the patient has high blood glucose level but is not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2. Patients are bound to develop type 2, but are in a state of prediabetes for some time.
If left untreated and not carefully managed, DM can be very dangerous and fatal.
The following are some examples of complications:
These can all be prevented with the help of healthy and balanced diet, daily physical activity and exercise, and weight watch.
Foods that are low in fat and calories and high in fiber are the healthiest options for patients. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the best choices. Physical activities are a must. They help blood sugar level to stabilize. They help insulin to absorb glucose better into the cells, normalizing its activity. Physical activities will help the body stay fit, keeping those excess fat at bay. The bottom line is for patients with diabetes to lead a healthy lifestyle.