Diabetes is a very serious, lifelong disease. It can create a need for significant lifestyle changes, and if overlooked or left untreated, it can easily cause complications or even death. One of the scariest things about diabetes, however, is that sometimes symptoms don’t appear until well into the course of the disease. Keep a careful eye on your health with regular checkups, and don’t ignore any warning signs, whether it’s symptoms you can’t explain, or blood pressure/blood sugar levels.
Maybe you’ve heard a lot about how deadly diabetes is, but you don’t understand it. Put simply, diabetes is the resulting condition of the body’s inability to regulate blood sugar. Depending on the cause for this difficulty, one may typically be diagnosed with either Diabetes type 1 or type 2.
After eating it’s natural for blood glucose levels to rise briefly; diabetes, or more accurately hyperglycemia, is the term used to describe a blood glucose level that remains high even long after eating. Ordinarily, after eating, organs in the body (the pancreas, primarily) release insulin to move glucose from the blood into the cells. In the case of diabetics, there is a problem with insulin production or effectiveness that makes it difficult to properly transfer glucose out of the blood.
A fasting glucose level, which describes the blood glucose level after eight hours or no food consumption, must be below 126mg/dl; levels higher than 126 mg/dl indicate diabetes. Likewise, a blood glucose level of 200mg/dl or higher two hours after a meal also indicates diabetes.
Essentially, diabetes is the result of blood glucose (sugar) remaining in the bloodstream, instead of being absorbed by the body. Typically, insulin helps with this process; however, a lack of insulin or even an inadequate amount of it will not be able to absorb enough glucose. Additionally, insulin can also lose the ability to help glucose be absorbed, no matter how much insulin is actually present.
Type 1 diabetes typically affects young people. It is a chronic condition in which a person’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells, thereby hampering the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes makes up the vast majority of diabetes cases, and typically affects the older population. In these cases, sometimes the illness stems from insulin resistance on the part of the body’s cells; this prevents the insulin from linking up with receptor molecules and facilitating the entry of glucose from the bloodstream into the cell. Otherwise, type 2 diabetes may be the result of the pancreas’ inability to produce enough insulin to draw in glucose from the blood.
While type 2 diabetes is easily the most common, followed distantly by type 1, there is a third type of diabetes known as ‘Gestational Diabetes’. Gestational diabetes only affects pregnant women, typically in the third trimester of their pregnancy, due to increased blood sugar levels. While not a serious condition on its own, gestational diabetes can trigger type 2 diabetes in the future. This is because of the role that body fat and inactivity play in the development of diabetes.
Regardless of the cause of diabetes, the end result is the same: hyperglycemia, or more simply, high blood sugar. Hyperglycemia can cause a number of complications, so consider seeking medical counsel if you develop one or more of the following symptoms:
Fatigue or Lethargy
While fatigue can come from a number of illnesses, it is an important potential indicator of diabetes. Fatigue appears as a symptom of hyperglycemia because of the way the body produces energy; the body depends on glucose to provide energy for the cells, particularly muscle cells. Therefore, in persons with high blood sugar, all of the energy that should be making it into the cells for use simply isn’t, which means the body is not getting an adequate fuel supply. This creates a feeling of fatigue or lethargy.
Typically when it comes to health and fitness, weight loss is hailed as a good thing. However, the relationship between weight and health is more complicated than that. In the case of diabetics, weight loss can actually be a bad thing. Weight lost from a regular physical exercise regimen is mostly fat, and sometimes is eclipsed by muscle gains, as muscle is heavier than fat. Diabetic bodies, however, which cannot make use of glucose for energy, instead tend to burn muscle mass in addition to fat reserves.