According to Web MD, diabetes affects more than 23 million people in the United States and is the most common disorder of the endocrine, or hormone, system. The disease occurs when blood sugar levels in the body constantly stay above normal. Diabetes is caused by the body's inability to make insulin or by the body not responding to the effects of insulin.
Type 1 diabetes occurs because the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes produce no insulin and must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes most commonly starts in individuals younger than the age of 20, but can occur at any age. The symptoms include:
Increased hunger (especially after eating).
Unexplained weight loss.
Labored, heavy breathing.
Loss of consciousness.
With Type 2 diabetes, the body continues to produce insulin. However, this insulin is either not enough or the body is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly. This keeps the glucose from entering the body's cells. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes and affects almost 18 million Americans. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in individuals over the age of 40 who are overweight, but it can occur in individuals who are not overweight. The disease has also recently appeared more often in children. The symptoms of Type 2 include:
Slow-healing sores or cuts.
Itching of the skin.
Recent weight gain.
Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet.
Impotence or erectile dysfunction.
The link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes is very clear. Therefore, individuals can greatly reduce their chance of developing the disease by slimming down if they are overweight. This is especially true for individuals who have a family history of diabetes. Studies have shown exercise and a healthy diet can prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes in individuals who have impaired glucose tolerance, which is a condition that develops prior to Type 2 diabetes. Medications also have been shown to provide similar benefits. Medications have been used to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes for individuals with pre-diabetes conditions.
There also are practices individuals with diabetes can do to assist themselves in managing the disease. Exercise and a nutritionally-balanced diet also have been shown to benefit individuals who already have diabetes. Exercise and a well-balanced diet can greatly limit the effects of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes on the body. Stopping smoking is one of the best ways to help prevent the damaging effects of diabetes. Smoking dramatically increases the risk of heart disease, particularly for individuals with diabetes.
If you do smoke, consider taking part in the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, when millions of Americans will quit smoking for at least 24 hours. Free "quit tips" will be available at HealthLink and Nathan Littauer Hospital, including information on local quit smoking services, the New York?State Smokers Quitline and how to get free nicotine replacement therapy.
For more information, call your health care provider, Littauer's Diabetes Center of Excellence at 773-5425, or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120.
For more information about HealthLink Littauer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, visit its website at nlh.org, or visit its wellness center, 213 Harrison St. Ext., Johnstown, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.