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Sugar Shroud - Health Feature on Diabetes

Sugar Shroud - Health Feature on Diabetes

Issue 75 December 2010

There is a worrying increase in diabetes amongst people, and those from particular ethnic groups are especially vulnerable. Dr. Noreen A. Kassem explains the issues.


Type 2 diabetes is a common, lifelong disease that is marked by high levels of glucose or sugar in the blood. This chronic condition can lead to serious complications that can affect every part of the body including the heart, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, muscles, skin, eyes and feet. In the UK there are 2.6m people diagnosed with this disease. There are different types of diabetes; type 2 diabetes mellitus is the most common and usually occurs in adults, though cases have been seen in children and teenagers that are overweight, inactive or have poor nutrition. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious damage in the body and even death. It increases the risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), high blood pressure, stroke, nerve damage and vision loss.


What is Diabetes?

The food you eat is broken down to smaller molecules that are stored or burned for energy that is needed for bodily functions. Once digestion is completed, the glucose is absorbed by the bloodstream and transported by the hormone insulin into the body’s liver, fat and muscle cells where energy production occurs. Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas and is vital for glucose to be used in the body.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes produce too little insulin or are resistant or less sensitive to this important hormone. This causes high levels of glucose in the blood and not enough is sent to the body’s cells where it can be used as fuel.



There are two main types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed during childhood. In this type of diabetes, the body makes little or no insulin and daily insulin injections are required. It occurs suddenly and causes severe symptoms. Genetics, viruses and auto-immune disease are thought to be causes of type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common and makes up the majority of diabetes patients. This type usually begins during adulthood, though some alarming cases are being seen in overweight and inactive children and teenagers. In this type the pancreas may not produce enough insulin or the body may become unable to use insulin properly. This type of diabetes is increasingly due to unhealthy lifestyles.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy in some women who do not normally have diabetes. It can be controlled in most cases with diet changes and exercise. However, it may increase the risk that the woman develops type 2 diabetes later in life, and even increases the risk that the baby will have diabetes as an adult.


Diabetes Tests

Type 2 diabetes generally begins gradually and in some cases will not cause symptoms until the disease has worsened significantly. In the UK more than 500,000 people who have this condition do not know it. Early detection is important to decrease the risk of potentially life-threatening complications. Even if you do not experience symptoms, it is important to get diabetes tests during your regular health check-ups if you have a family history of diabetes or have two or more risk factors.

 A urine test in your doctor’s surgery cannot alone diagnose diabetes. A finger-prick blood glucose test can indicate type 2 if blood glucose levels are higher than 200 mg/dL, but glucose levels fluctuate after a meal is eaten. An eight hour fasting blood glucose test will show how well your body is able to absorb glucose. Fasting blood glucose levels over 126 mg/dL indicate diabetes. Levels between 100 and 126 mg/dL may mean that you have decreased sensitivity to insulin and are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes later.

 An oral glucose tolerance test requires drinking a sugary solution followed by a blood test. Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed if blood glucose levels are higher than 200 mg/dL.

 A haemoglobin A1c blood test is used to diagnose and monitor the disease in people with diabetes. This test is usually given every three to six months and provides an average measurement of the blood glucose levels over the previous two to three months.



Type 2 diabetes requires consistent and regular attention to health and medical care. People with type 2 diabetes need regular monthly visits to their doctor to ensure that their illness is properly controlled.

 Diabetes needs to be constantly monitored to keep blood glucose levels in check. There are several types of treatments for this condition and individual treatment will vary. Individuals with type 1 diabetes always require insulin therapy.

 A doctor may prescribe medications alone for type 2 diabetes or medications along with insulin. It is very important to fully understand how to take your diabetes medication; ask your doctor or pharmacist for clear and detailed instructions. Insulin must be given by injection and cannot be taken in tablet form because the stomach would digest it. Your doctor may change your treatment over time and as the disease progresses. Some medications that may have benefited you earlier, may no longer work as effectively. Regardless of what type of medication is needed, anyone with diabetes must include a healthy diabetes nutrition plan and daily exercise in his or her treatment plan. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes are usually able to control blood glucose levels with healthy eating and daily physical activity.



A healthy lifestyle helps to treat diabetes, slow down the progession of the disease and can even prevent it in some cases. All diabetics must follow strict nutrition and exercise plans to keep their disease under control. Medications and insulin alone are not enough to prevent the diabetes from worsening and causing life-threatening complications.
Most individuals with type 2 diabetes are overweight and losing weight can instantly improve their health. Diabetics that are not overweight still need to follow a healthy diet. People with diabetes are up to four times more likely to have heart disease than individuals without diabetes.

 Foods to avoid include beef, lamb and processed meats, butter and margarine, white rice, pasta and breads, crisps and crackers, potatoes and high-fat dairy products.

 If you have diabetes, add more fish, poultry, beans and lentils to your diet as well as olive oil and other vegetable oils such as soybean and canola, nuts such as peanuts, and walnuts, whole eggs, yogurt, goat or feta cheese, fruits and vegetables, garlic, cinnamon, flaxseeds and other foods high in soluble fibre including oatmeal and barley.
Daily rigorous exercise helps to naturally reduce blood glucose levels and decrease high cholesterol and high blood pressure.



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1 Comment



11 May 16, 16:29

What do you expect when almost every ready made food has tons of sugar in it, and people are getting less and less physically active everyday?

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