Diabetes: How sweet is it?

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Diabetes: How sweet is it? (part one)

Many Americans have been diagnosed as diabetics. But many people don’t know that they have it. Could you be one of them? The following quiz may help you find out.

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

  • Constant thirst that never seems to be quenched
  • Frequent urination
  • Lack of energy or general fatigue
  • Weight loss even though you are eating well
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation in your hands and feet
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that will not heal

Diabetes is when the body cannot use foods properly. When food is digested for the non diabetic, food breaks down into a sugar called glucose, which the body uses as fuel. Glucose goes into the blood and insulin, which is a hormone, helps the body use the glucose that is in the blood. Insulin helps the glucose go from the blood to the body cells so it can be used for energy or stored for the future.

If you body does not produce insulin, then you would have Type I diabetes. Type I diabetes generally affects children between the ages of six and 11, but adults can also be diagnosed with Type I. For some unknown reason, the pancreas stops producing insulin and as a result, the sugar stays in the bloodstream. If left untreated, eventually the blood becomes too concentrated with sugar. This can cause the diabetic to pass out or possibly go into a coma.

Type I diabetes usually never goes undetected because the symptoms occur quickly and are quite obvious, including fatigue, weight loss and frequent urination. This type of diabetes is treated with insulin shots and a special diet that distributes food evenly throughout the day. The outlook for Type I diabetes is very good if blood sugar is kept in a normal range.

Type II diabetes is the most common. It typically occurs in men and women over age 40. With Type II diabetes, the pancreas often makes at least some insulin, so they are getting some glucose into their cells. But blood sugar still runs high because their bodies are not producing as much insulin as they need or are not using it as efficiently. That means they need more and more insulin to do the same job and after years of pumping extra insulin to make up for the body’s resistance the pancreas can begin to burn out.

As a result the condition can develop extremely slow, producing no symptoms until it has advanced over the course of many years. That’s unfortunate because left untreated, chronic high blood sugar can damage blood vessels, resulting in loss of eyesight, kidney disease, strokes heart attacks and amputation.

The way to prevent symptom-free Type II cases from slipping through the cracks is to have blood sugar checked as part of routine annual physical exams. That’s especially important for people at high risk, which includes anyone with two or more of the following characteristics:

  • over age 40
  • close relative of someone with diabetes (parent or sibling)
  • more than 20 percent over a “desirable” weight for height
  • of American Indian, Hispanic or African American lineage
  • high blood pressure, blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels
  • having a high blood glucose at any time in your life.

Continued in Part II

Learn more about diabetes

The American Diabetes Assocation

Diabetes resources from the American Dietetic Association

Updated January 26, 2023 1:39pm