To Your Health
March, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 03)
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Sweet Success

Prevention Is the Key to Avoiding Diabetes

By Tina Beychok

Diabetes currently affects almost 21 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Even more alarming is that the age of onset has dropped dramatically. It used to be that diabetes was primarily a "senior" disease, affecting those over age 45. Sadly, this is not the case anymore.

There are two main types of diabetes: type I, which usually is diagnosed in childhood and requires insulin; and type II, which does not require insulin treatment but may require medication. Most cases (about 95 percent) are type II, which can be prevented in the overwhelming majority of cases with proper diet and exercise. What is particularly frightening is the rise in type II diabetes among children.

So, What Exactly Is This Potentially Deadly Disease?

In type II diabetes, the body does not properly process insulin. Normally, the body will break down food into a simple sugar known as glucose. This glucose circulates in the blood until insulin, a hormone created in the pancreas, moves it into waiting cells, where it's converted into fuel.

A racially diverse group of people. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Normally, the pancreas can adjust the amount of insulin it produces based on glucose levels (blood-glucose or blood-sugar levels). In type II diabetes, while the body can produce insulin, the cells do not respond to it. As a result, the glucose can't move out of the blood and levels become too high.

What Other Health Problems Come With Diabetes?

The effects of diabetes can be felt, literally, from head to toe, according to the CDC.

  • People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a stroke than those without the disease.
  • Poorly controlled blood sugar may lead to glaucoma and blindness.
  • Gum disease and high blood sugar are related.
  • Diabetes, particularly in conjunction with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, may lead to heart disease.
  • Kidney damage may result from diabetes, especially in combination with high blood pressure.
  • Diabetes has been linked to male sexual dysfunction (impotence).
  • Nerves in the feet may become damaged, sometimes leading to amputation.