Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in the world today. It affects millions of people around the globe. Learn what causes diabetes and how to prevent it.
Diabetes affects more than 30 million Americans, and it is estimated that by 2050, diabetes could affect over 50% of the population. There are many different types of diabetes, but type 1 and type 2 are the two primary forms.
What is diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin, which is needed to convert sugar into energy. People who have type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to control their blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or cannot properly use it. This causes high blood sugar levels. Most people with type 2 diabetes do not need to take medication, but they may need to make lifestyle changes such as eating healthier foods and exercising more often.
The good news about both types of diabetes is that there are ways you can manage them so that your life doesn’t become unmanageable. In this article, we will discuss some of these methods for managing diabetes. After reading our tips on preventing and treating diabetes, we hope that you will be able to live a long healthy life free from complications like heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputations, nerve damage, and even death.
What causes diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body’s insulin cannot deliver enough glucose (or sugar) to cells and instead causes it to build up in the blood. This can lead to nerve damage, kidney disease, bladder infections, and poor circulation. Although there is no cure for diabetes, lifestyle changes such as exercise and eating healthy foods can dramatically help people control glucose levels. The best way to ensure your diet is healthy and easy to follow is by consulting with a registered nutritionist.
Several factors contribute to developing diabetes: genetics, diet, obesity, physical activity, stress, medications, infections, autoimmune disorders, and environmental toxins. The following sections explain each factor in detail.
Diabetes Risk Factors
Being overweight puts extra stress on the body and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes because excess weight puts additional stress on the muscles, liver, kidneys, and other organs. Excess fat also blocks the flow of oxygenated blood through the arteries, causing atherosclerosis. When the arteries get blocked, less oxygen-rich blood gets pumped out to the rest of the body. The result is low glucose levels in the bloodstream.
Overweight individuals also face increased risks of heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, infertility, miscarriages, premature birth, and low self-esteem.
We already know that glucose is not stored in body fat but is instead used as energy. Obesity is a sign that this occurs, meaning that your pancreas may be working overtime to produce sufficient insulin to manage your sugar consumption. If you don’t lose weight, your pancreas eventually becomes overwhelmed and fails to comply with the demand.
Excess weight puts extra stress on the pancreas, causing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance prevents glucose from entering cells where energy is needed most—the muscles, brain, and organs. When there isn’t enough insulin available to move glucose out of the bloodstream, sugar builds up in the blood. Over time, high blood sugar damages nerves and tissues throughout the body. Eventually, complications arise, including nerve pain, vision problems, kidney failure, amputations, strokes, heart attacks, and death.
Sugar is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, milk products, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, grains, honey, molasses, syrups, jams, jellies, preserves, candy, baked goods, soft drinks, juices, alcoholic beverages, and many processed food items. It’s added to almost every packaged or fast food item sold today.
In addition to being an essential source of fuel for the human body, dietary sugars provide essential nutrients necessary for growth and development. However, excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates cause inflammation within the body and increase triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and C-reactive protein. These conditions have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and metabolic syndrome.
High Blood Pressure
Some people believe that high blood pressure causes diabetes. But diabetes can cause high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: diastolic and systolic. Diastolic refers to the lower number, while systolic refers to the higher one. High blood pressure means having a consistently elevated level of blood pressure over 140/90 mmHg. Hypertension affects more than 50 million Americans and contributes significantly to strokes, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, renal insufficiency, and dementia.
It’s not unusual for doctors to prescribe propranolol to people with diabetes who already have high blood pressure. Propranolol reduces the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. This reduces the amount of sugar in the blood, which lowers blood pressure. But propranolol also suppresses the production of an enzyme called glucokinase, which makes glucose available to the brain. This tends to increase blood pressure.
When propranolol works, it increases blood pressure by 10 to 15 points. If it works once, it can double the risk of future heart attacks. If the effect lasts for several years, the risk of stroke and heart failure increases as well.
The net effect of the drug is, therefore, the opposite of what you might expect. When the drug is taken regularly, it can make diabetes worse. It can trigger a chain of events that leads to heart attacks and strokes in people with diabetes.
Now, if blood pressure is closely associated with the risk of diabetes, why not treat diabetes with drugs? It’s not a good idea because diabetes drugs often cause unpleasant side effects like weight loss, weakness, and headaches.
If blood pressure and blood sugar were linked in other ways, such as by a common gene, it might be different. But there is no common gene, and there is no evidence that blood pressure or blood sugar are related in any other way.
A recent study examined the relationship between genetics and type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that genes linked to type 2 diabetes were found in 50% of people with type 2 diabetes. And 18% of people with type 2 diabetes also had genes linked to type 1 diabetes. However, these people were not at higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes, although the link is still being studied.
Even if genetics did play a role in type 2 diabetes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that genetic tests should be used to diagnose type 1 diabetes. The risk genes for type 2 diabetes are not linked to the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells, so no one knows whether the genes play a role in type 1 diabetes.
Also, keep in mind that type 1 diabetes occurs mainly among children and young adults. The risk genes for type 2 diabetes don’t play a significant role in this disease.
Still, there is evidence to suggest that type 2 diabetes may be linked to some genes as well. Scientists are studying this connection.
We all know super-fit people: marathon runners, triathletes, competitive dancers, and gymnasts. They are the exception to the rule. Most people get old and sick, and most of them become fat.
The conventional wisdom says that this is inevitable. Given enough time, the human body becomes fat because it’s programmed to.
But what if that’s not true? What if being old and fat is a choice?
A new paper in The Journal of the American Medical Association says that something unusual happened in the late 1990s: the incidence of type 2 diabetes started to go up among younger people.
The cause of the rise is still a mystery, but the authors suggest that the aging population could be one reason.
Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem around the world. In the United States, about 30 million people have it. In China, it is an increasing problem, too.
Diabetes is more complex than just being overweight. The disease can lead to blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, and damage to the heart, blood vessels, and other organs.
The causes of the disease are still being studied, but there are several theories. One is that the rise is because of changes in our food supply. The foods that nutritionists say are good for us — fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — are more available and affordable now than they used to be. The foods that are not so good for us — high-fat foods, like meat and dairy products and sugar — have dropped in price. But people are still eating more of them.
Another theory is that hormones in the food we eat are causing the problem. Insulin is a hormone that keeps blood sugar below a certain level. If blood sugar levels go up, the pancreas produces more insulin to keep the levels down. But high insulin levels can cause fat to be stored in the liver instead of burned off by muscle tissue. This leads to weight gain.
There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing type 2. For example:
• Get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Regular physical activity helps maintain muscle mass and bone density while reducing belly fat. It improves cardiovascular fitness and reduces cholesterol levels.
• Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. They contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that help lower inflammation and fight cancer cells. Fruits and veggies provide essential nutrients that support overall wellness.
• Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol contains calories and adds empty carbohydrates to your diet. Drinking too much can lead to fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and pancreatitis.
• Stay away from processed foods. Processed foods lack essential nutrients found only in whole foods. Instead, choose fresh fruit juices, lean meats, fish, nuts, beans, legumes, eggs, dairy, and leafy greens.
• Limit your salt intake. Too much sodium makes your blood volume expand, putting unnecessary strain on your heart and circulatory system. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sodium intake to no more than one teaspoon per serving.
• Maintain good sleeping habits. Lack of good quality sleep increases stress hormones like cortisol, which leads to higher rates of abdominal fat storage. Sleep deprivation also causes an imbalance between leptin and ghrelin, two hormone signals that regulate appetite and hunger. This results in overeating.
Stress hormones also trigger your body to make more insulin. Insulin helps move blood sugar from your bloodstream into your cells. If your cells don’t have enough insulin, your blood sugar stays high, and your body can’t use the sugar for energy.
Your body has two ways to remove blood sugar from your bloodstream. One pathway is the kidneys. As blood sugar is filtered from your blood, it is passed to your kidneys. Your kidneys take glucose from your blood and either remove it through urine or store it as glycogen, which your body uses as fuel. The other pathway is the liver. As your body uses sugar as energy, it may be converted to glycogen.
In people with diabetes, insulin doesn’t do its job of lowering blood sugar. The body keeps making insulin, but it can’t use it. (This is also called insulin resistance.) If glucose builds up in the bloodstream, it can cause health problems that affect your eyes, kidneys, and heart.
Stress can also affect your pancreas, the gland that makes insulin. Stress hormones can cause the pancreas to make less insulin. (This is also called beta-cell dysfunction.) Insulin resistance by itself can cause problems, but beta-cell dysfunction can make them worse.
Stress can also cause your body to release more of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones can increase the amount of glucose in your bloodstream.
The relationship between stress and diabetes is complicated. Stress isn’t the only factor. Insulin resistance, beta-cell dysfunction, and obesity also contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a complex disease. Your risk of developing diabetes is affected by your family history and your lifestyle.
Lack of exercise
We know that exercise is good for our bodies, and we have evidence that practice is good for our brains and mental health. But until relatively recently, we didn’t know much about exercise’s impact on our metabolism. But we now have some research showing that regularly exercising and eating a low-fat diet can slow the growth rate of diabetes.
The connection between exercise and metabolism is indirect. Movement causes you to lose weight, and losing weight lowers the number of calories you take each day. But losing weight also stimulates your metabolism because muscle burns more calories than fat.
So now we know that regularly exercising and eating a low-fat diet can slow the growth rate of diabetes. Everyone, then, should take up regular exercise and eat a low-fat diet. But is it enough? The answer is no. The link between activity and lower rates of diabetes is so strong that regular exercise is needed to slow the growth of the disease.
The link isn’t perfect. It only works if you exercise regularly. If you don’t exercise at all, even a long walk every day won’t help. And the connection between exercise and lower rates of diabetes isn’t absolute. It varies from person to person. A sedentary person can lose weight without exercising, and a person who exercises regularly but eats a lot of fat will still get diabetes.
But the link between exercise and lower rates of diabetes is still strong. Scientists are still investigating it, but it’s starting to look like exercise is one of the most potent weapons we have in our fight against diabetes. Even people who can’t exercise regularly can, it seems, benefit from a diet that is lower in fat and higher in fiber.
A condition where breathing stops briefly during sleep due to airway collapse, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when soft tissues around the throat relax and narrow the upper airways. OSA affects up to 18 million Americans and often goes undiagnosed until it becomes severe enough to interfere with daily activities.
In 1982, two Australian researchers published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They reported the case of a 28-year-old man treated for sleep apnea, a breathing problem that causes people to stop breathing in their sleep. After treatment, his diabetes disappeared.
The study’s authors cautioned that sleep apnea did not seem to trigger diabetes in everyone and that more research was needed. Within five years, they were dead.
The journalist Harry H. Brode studied the case and wrote a book about it in 2002. He concluded that sleep apnea had probably triggered the man’s diabetes. But Brode could not say for sure.
In 2005, a study was published that Brode regarded as definitive. The researchers had analyzed the medical histories of 1,800 people. Their findings matched Brode’s: sleep apnea had caused diabetes in 13.6 percent of affected patients.
But was this proof? Brode had noted that sleep apnea patients often had other health problems. So did people with sleep apnea who did not have diabetes.
The problem, Brode wrote, was that the 13.6 percent figure came from a single study. It was based on just 130 diabetics who had suffered from sleep apnea. In 2005, the sleep apnea study was repeated. This time, the sleep apnea group had 1,054 people with diabetes. That made the number, 13.6 percent, look a lot less impressive.
An abnormal delay in emptying stomach contents into the intestine following meals. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, bloating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, gas, flatulence, and loss of appetite. Gastroparesis may be temporary or permanent.
It has been known since the 1970s that gastric bypass surgery improves symptoms of type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin resistance. However, many doctors believe that gastric bypass should never be performed unless no alternative therapy is available.
One reason is that gastric bypass increases your risk of developing gallstones. Another is that some studies suggest that gastric bypass does not improve blood sugar control.
However, recent evidence suggests that gastric banding reduces glucose levels after eating. One possible explanation is that gastric banding stimulates the production of an enzyme called lipase, which helps digest fats.
In brief, we know that obesity can cause diabetes but what triggers it remains unclear. We also know that certain drugs used to treat high cholesterol increase the risk of diabetes. And we know that exercise lowers the risk of diabetes.
We don’t yet understand why these factors interact to produce diabetes. Nor do we fully understand how diet and lifestyle affect our chances of getting diabetes.
There are several reasons why scientists haven’t cracked the code thoroughly. First, most cases of Type II diabetes occur among overweight adults over 40. These individuals tend to eat unhealthy diets rich in fat and refined carbohydrates.
They also tend to lack physical activity. Second, the disease develops gradually so that its early warning signs aren’t always obvious. Third, once you develop diabetes, it tends to progress slowly. As a result, it takes decades before it leads to severe complications such as blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart attacks, strokes, and even death.
Reduce Diabetes Risk
So if you’re worried about becoming diabetic, here are three things you can do right now to reduce your risks:
1. Eat healthy foods. Ensure you get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and herbs. Avoid sugary drinks like soda pop and fruit juice; instead, drink water or unsweetened tea.
2. Get regular aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes per day for five days each week. You’ll burn calories while improving cardiovascular health and lowering stress hormones.
3. If you have prediabetes, make changes to your diet and exercise habits. The American Heart Association recommends losing 5-10 pounds through moderate weight reduction combined with increased daily physical activity.
If you already have diabetes, try to keep your A1C level below 7%.