Everyone knows diabetes, and we all know the stereotypes – if you’ve got diabetes, you must have eaten too much sugar, or those who suffer from diabetes have to inject themselves with insulin every day and have strict dietary restrictions - right? Not quite. Allow me to clear up some of these prejudices. But before I get started, it is important that I explain the key terms associated with diabetes and to distinguish between the different types.
Glucose: Comes from the Greek word for “sweet.” It is the type of sugar derived from foods and the body uses it for energy. As glucose travels through the bloodstream to the cells, it is called blood glucose or blood sugar.
Pancreas: An organ behind the stomach and next to the small intestine. The pancreas does two main things: It releases powerful digestive enzymes into the small intestine to aid the digestion of food. It produces and releases the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream
Insulin: A hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use glucose from the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). It is insulin that regulates blood sugar levels in the blood – it helps carry glucose from the blood to the cells for energy and storage.
Types of Diabetes:
Type 1: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease (simply defined, an autoimmune disease is when the body's immune system attacks its own body. In this case, the pancreas can't make insulin because the immune system attacks it and destroys the cells that produce insulin.) Type 1 diabetes develops most often in young people but can appear in adults.
Type 2: Type 2 is the "acquired form" of the illness, which roughly 90 percent of diabetics suffer from. With type 2, the insulin hormone is present, but the body can't process it correctly thus allowing the blood glucose to get high.
Myth : Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
FACT: Not exactly, sugar doesn't cause diabetes. For type 1 diabetics, no amount of sugar in your diet – or anything in your lifestyle – has caused or can cause you to get Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is complex, and sugar is unlikely to be the only reason the condition develops, but sugar can influence whether a person gets type 2 diabetes. The causes of type 2 include inactivity and being overweight, a consequence of a diet too full of fats, carbohydrate and sugars. Consuming too much sugar (or sugary foods and drinks) can make people put on weight. ... Weight gain from eating too much of any food can make a person's chance of getting type 2 diabetes greater.
Myth : Diabetes is not a big deal.
Fact: Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Having diabetes nearly doubles your chance of having a heart attack. If left unchecked, diabetes can cause serious complications and premature death. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, low limb amputation, and several other long term consequences that impacts a person’s quality of life significantly.
Myth : Diabetes is a death sentence.
Fact: Not true. People with diabetes can live a long and healthy life free of complications. The management of diabetes is in your hands. Your health worker can provide medication and a meal plan. But it is the individual’s responsibility to take the medication, exercise and adhere to the meal plan.
Myth : Individuals with diabetes can eat wheat but not rice.
Fact: Not true. Both wheat and rice have the same amount of carbohydrate (approximately 70%), and they both raise the blood sugar to similar extent. Therefore, it should not matter whether one consumes wheat or rice as long as the quantity is restricted. However at all times, whole grains such as brown rice is preferred.
Myth : Women with diabetes should not get pregnant.
Fact: False. Women with well-controlled diabetes can have a normal pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.
Myth : Diabetes have to inject themselves with insulin daily.
Fact: True and false. Type 1 diabetics must inject themselves with insulin, because their bodies can’t produce insulin independently. For type 2 diabetics, this is not the case. For most people, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease; when first diagnosed many people can maintain their blood glucose at a healthy level with oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin, and eventually oral medication may not be enough to keep the blood glucose normal, this is when a type 2 diabetics need to inject insulin. In other words, uncontrolled type 2 diabetics would eventually need insulin.
Myth : Gestational diabetes does not need to be taken seriously, as it disappears after a woman gives birth.
Fact: False. 50-7-% of women who had gestational diabetes may develop diabetes within 5-10 years of delivery. In addition, if left untreated, children of mothers with gestational diabetes are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Hence, gestational diabetes should be taken very seriously and treated.
In some cases, a person can have diabetes but not have any signs or symptoms. Regular check-ups with your doctor are an important factor in preventing or managing diabetes.
Until next time…..get your checks done, eat healthy and fewer calories, exercise, and change you!
Dr. Ramat Lawal-Unuigbe