Our bodies, especially our brains, require glucose in order to function properly. However, too much glucose in the blood can create many problems.
The body produces insulin and balances glucose and insulin in order to keep our blood glucose at the appropriate level, generally between 70 and 110 mg. Diabetes occurs when the body can't properly use insulin or doesn't make enough insulin. Because of this, the body can't keep blood sugar levels where they should be.
About 5 percent to 10 percent of the population has diabetes. Most people with diabetes don't know they have the disease. The most common form of diabetes is "adult onset" diabetes, also called Type II diabetes or non-insulin dependent diabetes. This type of diabetes occurs when the body can't make enough insulin or the body can't properly use the insulin being made.
Symptoms of diabetes include:
However, diabetes doesn't always produce symptoms. Non-insulin dependent diabetes can be controlled by losing weight, eating properly and exercising. Additional treatments may include pills or insulin injections.
Complications of uncontrolled diabetes can be very serious. Some studies list diabetes as the 4th leading cause of death. It is important to recognize symptoms, get regular physical exams - especially if you are in a high-risk category - and get regular checkups.
When blood glucose levels are either very high or very low, the body reacts.
High blood sugar may come on gradually and result in the typical "symptoms" of diabetes: fatigue, increased thirst and hunger, blurred vision, weight loss and slow healing. If undiagnosed and untreated for long enough, high blood sugar may result in increased symptoms. Coma or death can occur.
Some people with diabetes don't follow their treatment plan and routinely run high blood sugars, greater than 126. Long-term high blood sugars can result in complications such as kidney disease, heart disease and poor circulation to the feet and legs. The good news is that these complications can often be avoided when blood sugars are maintained within normal limits.
Survival skills for diabetics include:
- Frequent self-monitoring of blood sugar. Keep blood sugar levels between 70 and 110
- Routine medical care
- Proper diet - low carbohydrates and a balanced diet
- Good foot care
- Knowing how to respond properly to very high blood sugar: medication, exercise and calling your physician; and to very low blood sugar: eat a small portion of something with protein and carbohydrates such as peanut butter and milk or cheese and juice.