What is Diabetes and Symptoms of High Glucose Levels?
When you’re told that the results of your blood test shows an above normal level of blood glucose like I was recently, the reality of diabetes becomes a bit scary. And, it’s human nature to avoid what’s scary.
However, diabetes is not something to avoid, especially with our midlife health. It increases our risks of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage.
Type 2 diabetes risk increases when we hit age 45. Weight gain along with a sedentary lifestyle and other factors can increase our risk as we journey through middle age. Knowing more about diabetes is the first step to prevention or dealing with this disease. And, from my experience, knowing more helps to reduce our fears.
So, what exactly is Diabetes?
Classed as a metabolism disorder, diabetes is a condition when our blood glucose level is too elevated. To understand what this means to our bodies, we need to first understand the role of insulin and sugar in the body.
When our body’s metabolism is acting normally, it uses sugar to fuel the body’s energy requirements. That energy comes from the foods we consume, mostly from carbohydrates. During the digestion process, carbohydrates are broken down into their simplest form: sugars. That’s glucose.
We store glucose as fat in the body when it’s not required right away for energy. Some glucose is allowed to pass into the bloodstream where it is made available for use.
In response to the amount of sugar in the blood, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin. Insulin acts as a transportation system for “sugar.” It carries the sugar to the cells of the body where it is burned as fuel to help keep you active. Without insulin, sugar can’t travel through the walls of the cells.
There are two primary types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. There’s also Gestational diabetes, which temporarily develops in 2% to 5% of all pregnancies. Additionally, diabetes can occur through some genetic syndromes, drug use and other ways; however this type only affects 1% to 2% of the population.
What’s important to understand is that while Type 1 diabetes can’t usually be prevented Type 2 diabetes can be.
Diabetes Type 1: Also called Juvenile Diabetes
Juvenile diabetes normally appears during childhood and adolescence. However, adults can be affected as well.
Type 1 is an auto-immune disease, where the body attacks its own cells. In this case, what’s under attack is the cells of the pancreas. Since the pancreas produces insulin, the body will either produce no insulin or not enough to be sufficient for the body’s needs. Over time,
Since the pancreas can’t respond to the levels of sugar in the blood and the level becomes too high. Over a period of time, this can result in organ and tissue damage.
Diabetes Type 2 is Known as Adult Onset Diabetes
Normally a condition that strikes people over the age of 60, incidences of Type 2 Diabetes are rapidly increasing among people much younger. Type 2 diabetes can appear in people as young as 20.
With Type 2, certain risk factors, some self inflicted, are responsible for the diabetic condition. In the body, either the cells become resistant to insulin or the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to meet the demands. The same reactions occur in Type 2 as Type 1: blood sugar is not regulated and serious complications could be the result.
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Usually, Type 2 Diabetes is not diagnosed until symptoms appear. High glucose levels can result in any of the following:
- Increased or unusual thirst
- Increased hunger
- Dry mouth
- Needing to pee frequently
- Unexpected weight loss (if you’re not working on weight loss, and are losing weight, be concerned)
- Recent weight gain
- Feeling tired, worn out or irritable
- Frequent headaches
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- Vaginal or groin itchiness
- Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections
- Blurring vision
At middle age, if you have any of these symptoms, or are concerned about diabetes, it’s important to contact your doctor.
However don’t just rely on these symptoms. Often, people with high glucose levels are not aware of it until a routine blood test. That was my experience. It’s also important to be aware of your risk factors for diabetes and to start taking steps to mitigate your risks.
For additional information on diabetes, I encourage you to visit the American Diabetes Association website. It’s a great resource on diabetes basics, living with the disease and steps you can take to reduce your risks of developing it. It’s a resource I’m using to learn more about what I can do to reduce my blood glucose through a healthy diet plan and exercise.