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What is diabetes? Did You Know About This?

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces

If you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to properly process and use glucose from the food you eat. There are different types of diabetes, each with different causes, but they all share the common problem of having too much glucose in your bloodstream. Treatments include medications and/or insulin’s. Some types of diabetes can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Types of diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes – type 1, type 2 and gestational.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin.. can develop at any age, but occurs most frequently in children and adolescents. When you have type 1 diabetes, your body produces very little or no insulin,

Symptoms include excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes, and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent, or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. is more common in adults and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make good use of the insulin that it produces. The cornerstone of type 2 diabetes treatment is healthy lifestyle, including increased physical activity and healthy diet. Symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, after complications have already arisen.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a severe and neglected threat to maternal and child health. Many women with GDM experience pregnancy-related complications including high blood pressurelarge birth weight babies and obstructed labour. Approximately half of women with a history of GDM go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to ten years after delivery.

Insulin

is a hormone made by the pancreas, that acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the blood stream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells. 

Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues. 

Why is my blood glucose level high? How does this happen?

The process of digestion includes breaking down the food you eat into various different nutrient sources. When you eat carbohydrates (for example, bread, rice, pasta), your body breaks this down into sugar (glucose). Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach. Your pancreas releases insulin into your bloodstream.

If you have diabetes:

  • Your pancreas doesn’t make any insulin or enough insulin.

Or

  • Your pancreas makes insulin but your body’s cells don’t respond to it and can’t use it as it normally should.

If glucose can’t get into your body’s cells, it stays in your bloodstream and your blood glucose level rises. 

General symptoms

The general symptoms of diabetes include:

  • increased hunger
  • increased thirst
  • unexplained weight loss, even when increasing food intake
  • lack of energy
  • blurred vision
  • frequent urination
  • sexual difficulties
  • cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • blurry vision
  • extreme fatigue 
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sores that don’t heal  

Exercise and diet tips

If a doctor diagnoses someone with diabetes, they will often trusted source recommend making lifestyle changes to support weight management and overall health.

A doctor may refer a person living with diabetes or prediabetes to a nutritionist. A specialist can help people living with diabetes lead an active, balanced lifestyle and manage the condition.

Steps a person can take to stay healthy with diabetes include:

  • Eating a diet high in fresh, nutritious foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fat sources, such as nuts.
  • Avoiding high-sugar foods that provide empty calories or calories that do not have other nutritional benefits, such as sweetened sodas, fried foods, and high-sugar desserts.
  • Refraining from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or keeping intake to less than one drink a day for females or two drinks a day for males.
  • Engaging in at least 30 minutes of exercise per day on at least 5 days of the week, such as walking, aerobics, riding a bike, or swimming.
  • Recognizing signs of low blood sugar when exercising, including dizziness, confusion, weakness, and profuse sweating. 

How is diabetes diagnosed? 

Diabetes is diagnosed and managed by checking your glucose level in a blood test. There are three tests that can measure your blood glucose level: fasting glucose test, random glucose test and A1C test.

Tests for type 1 and type 2 diabetes and prediabetes

Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. This blood test, which doesn’t require fasting, indicates your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells.

The higher your blood sugar levels, the more hemoglobin you’ll have with sugar attached. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates that you have diabetes. An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 % indicates prediabetes. Below 5.7 is considered normal.

  • Random blood sugar test. A blood sample will be taken at a random time. Regardless of when you last ate, a blood sugar level of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) — 11.1 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) — or higher suggests diabetes.
  • Fasting blood sugar test. A blood sample will be taken after an overnight fast. A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) is normal. A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) is considered prediabetes. If it’s 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test. For this test, you fast overnight, and the fasting blood sugar level is measured. Then you drink a sugary liquid, and blood sugar levels are tested periodically for the next two hours.

A blood sugar level less than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is normal. A reading of more than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) after two hours indicates diabetes. A reading between 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L) indicates prediabetes.

Diabetes in pregnancy

Women who have diabetes before pregnancy need to take certain steps to ensure a safe pregnancy.

Blood sugar levels: If possible, keeping blood sugar levels under control before pregnancy is vital. High blood sugar levels can harm the fetus and may result in congenital anomalies.

This is especially true early in pregnancy, when a person might not yet know they are pregnant.

Medication: The person may need to change their use of medication during pregnancy.

Diet and lifestyle factors: Diabetes can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy, so a person should work closely with their healthcare team to establish:

  • a safe diet
  • an exercise plan
  • a schedule for testing blood sugar at home
  • the need for other tests and monitoring

 

Type of test Normal
(mg/dL)
Prediabetes
(mg/dL)
Diabetes
(mg/dL)
Fasting
glucose test
Less than 100

100-125 126 or higher
Random (anytime)
glucose test
Less than 140

140-199 200 or higher
Ab1c test Less than 5.7%

5.7 – 6.4% 6.5% or higher
Oral glucose
tolerance test
Less than 140 140-199 200 or higher

 

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