Understanding diabetes - everything you should know

Do you know what causes diabetes ? Do you know what insulin is? Do you know how diabetes can be controlled? Type II diabetes or blood sugar is a common disease. Often referred to as a lifestyle disease, diabetes can be controlled by taking small but significant changes in your day-to-day life. Find out how.

Diabetes has become a sort of epidemic. Every other person I meet is either diabetic or border line diabetic. That is bad enough, but it gets worse. None of these people know anything about the disease. Ask them about the disease and they are blank about what the condition is - other than blabbering (if I may use the term) it being something to do with sugar levels.

It is good to be informed about a health condition one suffers from. If you are like any one of the people I know, then this article is for you. Here is my attempt to demystify diabetes.

Diabetes explained to a layman

In a healthy person the body converts what is eaten into glucose, which consequently gets converted into energy. In diabetic patients the body fails to convert the glucose into energy. As a result the glucose stays in the blood, and in turn raises the blood sugar levels. Once there is a surge in the blood sugar levels the body's natural mechanism gets kicking – the excess sugar gets excreted through the urine. This is the reason why urine samples of diabetic patients also show high sugar levels. This is the simplest way to explain diabetes, which is also known as Type II diabetes.

Diabetes and Insulin – the what and the why explained

The pancreas plays a significant role in diabetes control. This is because the hormone insulin is produced and released by the pancreases. Insulin is important because it assists the cells with the absorption of glucose present in the blood. Cells can then turn the glucose into energy. In individuals where the pancreases fail to create adequate insulin or where the body fails to properly utilize the insulin, to metabolize the glucose, the glucose remains in the blood, increasing blood glucose levels.

What causes diabetes?

Many people consider diabetes to be a lifestyle disease – something that afflicts only the rich. This is not fully correct. Causes for diabetes are many:

  • Genetic factor: Individuals with a family history of diabetes are at high risk of contracting the disease, by the time they turn 40. If either or both of your parents have diabetes your risk of diabetes is already genetically decided.
  • Obesity & Being overweight: Obesity puts people at a higher risk of developing the disease. Fat around the belly is particularly dangerous as it restricts the absorption of glucose by the cells.
  • Lifestyle: Diabetes is also attributed to lifestyle. Stress, high blood pressure and gestational diabetes can be reasons of becoming diabetic.
  • Medication: Certain drugs, like those containing steroids and some oral contraception drugs can also cause diabetes.

Obesity and diabetes explained

In medical terminology fat around the belly is called omental fat or visceral fat and this layer of fat is a major contributor to diabetes. Belly fat inhibits the effective functioning of insulin – which is to transport glucose to the cells, where the latter can be converted into energy.

Being overweight is really detrimental to health. A waist size larger than 40" in males and 37" in females increases the chances of getting afflicted with the dreadful disease. The risk of diabetes increases with every extra kilogram of body fat and every extra inch around the waist. Extra body weight makes the system less receptive to insulin. When the body does not or rather cannot respond to insulin it becomes possible for glucose to just linger in the blood.

Impact of diabetes

When there is constantly more glucose in the blood than the normal desirable levels it causes a condition called atherosclerosis, where the arteries become narrow. In patients where the larger blood vessels get affected the risk of cardiovascular disease is imminent. They become high-risk patients and susceptible to stroke and angina.

Sometimes the narrowing of the arteries affects small blood vessels, such as those in the eyes. If the capillaries in the eyes get affected it could cause damage to the retina, leading to vision impairment or loss of vision in extreme cases.

Diabetes can also affect the nerve sheaths causing inflammation. This causes numbness, severe tingling sensation and cramps. If blood sugar levels are very high the patient can also suffer from gangrene.

Is diabetes curable?

Well, unfortunately not, which is what makes diabetes a dangerous disease. Diabetes cannot be cured it can only be controlled through proper diet and a committed exercise regime, but never be completely cured. Some patients require medication to maintain blood sugar levels. However, it is advised to monitor blood sugar, regularly.

The right way to manage diabetes

There is no cure yet for diabetes. However, patients can control the disease through a regimental approach. This approach is tried and tested and has proven to be affective. It involves cutting out unwanted elements from the diet, eating the right foods, giving the body exercise and monitoring blood sugar levels.

10 ways to stay on track with diabetes

Keeping diabetes under control is not impossible. There are a few things that must be on your everyday check-off list. Follow the dos and don'ts to a T and you will be fine.

  • Diabetic diet: The best diabetic diet is a combination of high-fibre and low carbohydrate foods. Include whole grain products and remove processed foods from your diet. Processed foods are stripped of nutrition and are unhealthy. Avoid sugar.
  • Physical exercise: Exercise is crucial to manage diabetes for life. Any form of physical activity is good – walking, running, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, playing a sport etc., can actually help drop the glucose count in your blood and help control diabetes. Exercise has other benefits too, such as helping with weight management and controlling other weight related medical problems.
  • Take your meds: Do not skip your medicines as they are crucial in controlling blood sugar levels. While diet and exercise are a must, diabetes control also needs medication. Especially, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes and prescribed medications, continue with the medication.
  • Check blood sugar level: Keep a tab on your blood sugar count. It makes sense to purchase a Glucometer so you can monitor your blood sugar levels at home. Test the glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) once every three months – hit the panic button if the level crosses 7%.
  • Periodic check-ups: Regular check-ups are essential when you suffer from diabetes. Schedule an appointment with your diabetologist even if you are taking your medication regularly, following a diet and exercise regime and your blood sugar levels are normal. Diabetes is a silent killer, it needs to be monitored, even when all seems well.
  • Diabetes affects other organs: High blood sugar levels can cause damage to your heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes and feet by blocking tiny blood vessels. It is imperative that you go for an annual medical check-up to ensure the health of these body parts is not affected.
  • Yoga can do wonders: Yoga gurus profess that meditation and pranayama are good for diabetes control. Take time to practice 30 minutes of yoga everyday.
  • Stay stress free: Stress can kill, without you even knowing. Mental and physical stress put you at a greater risk of diabetes. Stress is known to raise blood sugar levels. Practice breathing techniques to remain composed. Learn to relax and do things that can help you relax.
  • There is no magic pill: Yes, you read that right. There is no magic pill (read cure) for diabetes. Do not be misled by claims that diabetes can be cured. Stay away from quacks and only trust a qualified medical practitioner.
  • Choose your doctor with care: Don't see just any doctor when you know you have diabetes. Remember, it always helps to see a specialist. Specialists understand not just diabetes, but also comorbidities linked to the disease. They will ensure that you take medication that helps your lipid count and blood pressure to remain within the normal range.

Related Articles

Types, Side Effects, And Treatment Of Diabetes

In this article, I will explain all about diabetes. Diabetes is seen in not only in old age people, but also it much seen in adults. I share the reason why diabetes comes and the food we can take to control it.

What can a diabetic patient eat? A layman's guide

A diabetic diet is no longer restricted to tasteless food. Diabetics can now eat a variety of foods just like everyone else. If you are still in doubt about which foods are permissible then you need to read this article. Make use of the information to switch to healthy diabetic meals.

Are you pre-diabetic? Find out everything you need to know

Ignorance may be bliss, but not when it comes to health. It is best to be aware of common but dangerous medical conditions that you can be afflicted by. Studies reveal that just 10% of adults over 20 are aware that they have pre-diabetes and are susceptible to developing the disease. It is high time that you become proactive and check whether you are at risk of developing diabetes.

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Guest Author: Mukesh agarwal15 Oct 2016

The author has not defined few things properly such as obesity, diabetes and the real cause is not mentioned. Now I will add something.

1.Obesity is defined as when body mass index(BMI) is above 30. upto 25 normal, 25-30 overweight and above 30 BMI is obesity. One more point belly/ hip ratio should be less than .9 for fit person if the ratio is more than .9 the person is obese.

2.The main cause of diabetes is lac of insulin.The insulin is produced in pancreas. If the gland is not functioning well, diabetes will set on.

Guest Author: Saurabh sirohi16 Oct 2016

This article is written for the layperson, to be able to understand the disease and to be able to act to control it. That is why the article is kept simple to understand. It is not a dissertation. How many lay people understand what BMI is?

Two indicators are required to calculate BMI – namely, weight and height. Yes, online tools to calculate the same are available (though not everyone may be aware of these), but one does need the exact measures of weight and height to be able to calculate BMI. The girth of the waist is easy to obtain, and simpler to read and understand. Also, there are too many calculations involved with working out the waist to hip ratio.

Environment and lifestyle are as responsible for diabetes as lack of insulin, especially in today's world. The disease can be controlled by making changes in our day-to-day life, and this is what this article proposes. The article speaks of genetic susceptibility and how to avoid/control the disease, through awareness. Moreover, lack of insulin has been covered under “Diabetes and Insulin – the what and the why explained".

Guest Author: Pankaj Kumar20 Oct 2016

First of all my appreciation to the author for explaining the diabetes disease to the understanding level of the lay person which not done even by the doctor. In India we people are fond of sweets and rice items and it is said that those who have more sweets and more rice in the initial ages would get this disease later. For the diabetic patient , eating frequently is important to maintain body strength. One need not eat full quantity but eat small quantity for as much time as he can. This will give the required strength to the body. That is why I could see some people go for the biscuits as their stop gap diet to get the wanted strength.

Guest Author: Hemalatha08 Nov 2016

This article is very informative including the comments added by NK SHARMA for obesity. Now a days, Diabetes is a becoming a huge illness for everyone. In every 3 of 5 family, you can find a person who is having Diabetes. This problem is inherited from our elders. So, if your father had Diabetes then there is 50% chances that in future you could have Diabetes. So, better you take precautions from now itself. As it is well said that "Prevention is better than cure".

Guest Author: Amir Alam17 Aug 2017

Yes, eating frequently is important for the diabetic patient, and this is done to regulate the blood sugar levels and from keeping it from fluctuating.

Diabetic patients must schedule 6-8 small meals through the day. However, they must ensure that they do not overdo the intake of carbohydrates.
Eating balanced meals and avoiding junk food can help stabilise blood sugar levels.

Guest Author: Amir Alam17 Aug 2017

Yes, diabetes is hereditary, but it is also a lifestyle disease. It is a common condition across the globe, because of the unhealthy habits that people have begun to practice.

We lead a sedentary lifestyle, physical exercise, unless we choose to do it, has been removed from our lives – thanks to all the inventions that help us do our daily chores. We have begun eating unhealthy, switching nutritious, wholesome food, with junk food. We don't get enough rest. Our stress levels are high. All this reflects on our health.

Guest Author: Bhavesh12 Aug 2018

As with the author, I know many people in my social circle who suffer from diabetes. My dad too is diabetic. But, honestly, I did not know the actual meaning of what this disease is. I don't think most of the people who suffer from this disease know it either.

This article is a one-page introduction to what, why and how of diabetes. I liked reading it very much and I already have pointers that I can explain to others.

This article is simple and easy to understand. It is a must read for all and shared with others as well. At least, I am now going to be very aware of my waist size, not for the sake of fitting into that old jeans, but
to prevent diabetes and it's related ailments.

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