This post aim to bring to our attention the diabetes disease, its effects, what we can do about it and how anyone affected can live with it.
Diabetes and all the complications associated with it are responsible for a number of deaths and disabilities all around the world. Millions of people are diagnosed and at the same token millions are undiagnosed. The figures in the United States alone are startling; there is nearly some 8 percent of the population or 18.1 million people living with diabetes. In 1980, there were only 5.6 million people diagnosed with the disease. This disease is one of the leading health problems in the Caribbean, contributing significantly to morbidity and mortality and adversely affecting both the quality and length of life.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a defect in the body’s ability to convert glucose (sugar) to energy. Glucose is the main source of fuel for our body. When food is digested it is changed into fats, protein, or carbohydrates. Foods that affect blood sugars are called carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, when digested, change to glucose. Examples of some carbohydrates are: bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, corn, fruit, and milk products. Individuals with diabetes should eat carbohydrates but must do so in moderation. (Diabetes Research Wellness Foundation).
Diabetes is not contagious. According to medical personnel, after digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by cells for growth and energy. For glucose to get into cells, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach. When we eat, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into the cells. In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body in the urine. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose.
Who gets Diabetes?
Anyone regardless of
- sexual orientation
It has been recorded that people with a family history of diabetes are a usually a high risk. Others at high risk also are older people, overweight and sedentary people.
Well, my family is one of those families with a history of diabetes. My grandmother, (Dad’s mom) had one of her legs amputated some years before she died and my dad had a number of complications that were associated to the disease. I recall him making drastic changes to his life style once he was diagnosed with this disease in the late 80s. I am convinced those changes were responsible for him living with the disease for approximately 20 years. He abstained from alcohol, minimized his rice intake and when he did have some, it was brown rice. He ate toasted whole wheat bread, lots of yams, vegetables, beans and fish. Pasta, potatoes, regular milk or anything that would increase his blood sugar level were seldom a part of his diet. For the most part he kept himself active in his kitchen garden from which he grew most of the food he ate.
Three years ago on this date, June 25, he was called home just a few days short of his 81st birthday. We were fortunate to celebrate his life at his funeral on July 7, his birth date. Usually it is after someone passes on from a particular ailment that we tend to speculate about what could have or should have been done. Yes! We had those moments as a family. However, though it may sound weird to say we are grateful that our father was as disciplined as he was. Had he continue with his usual eating and drinking habits he would have been long gone. We were blessed to have had him around for 20 plus years after his diagnosis.
I am sure family members of diabetics can attest to the fact that their suffering relative can be troublesome, irritable and stubborn. Nevertheless, it’s noteworthy to mention that this disease is dangerous and its complications will take our loved ones away from us earlier that we would like if we do not act responsibly. The good news is that it is treatable and as such we need to stop crying foul about the illness and act, it is not a death sentence to anyone. We need to utilize the medical assistance available to us and support organizations that are researching the illness.
Reports are that the number of diabetic cases is likely to increase for several reasons. First, a large segment of the population worldwide is aging and second, people are becoming increasingly overweight and sedentary. This is very true for the American society. Detecting the symptoms and seeking your doctor’s advice are the first steps one should take in the process of becoming aware of this problem. Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms seem so harmless. Recent studies indicate that the early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment can decrease the chance of developing the complications of diabetes.
Here are some of the symptoms we can look for
Type 1 Diabetes
- Frequent urination
- Unusual thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Extreme fatigue and Irritability
Type 2 Diabetes*
- Any of the type 1 symptoms
- Frequent infections
- Blurred vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
- Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections
*Often people with type 2 diabetes have no symptom
My father when he was in pain due to poor circulation would say to us he did not wish this illness on a Dog of his. Thank God to date none of his children or grandchildren or great-grandson is diagnosed. However, we are taking the necessary precautions, given the heredity factor.
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