Monday, March 12, 2007

Overview of Diabetes

Chances are, you or someone you know has diabetes, a condition in which the body is unable to regulate blood sugar on its own. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 20.8 million children and adults in the U.S. or 7 percent of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, which is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play a role, the actual cause of diabetes remains a mystery.

In most cases, diabetes does not strike until adulthood. People who get little exercise and are overweight are at an increased risk of developing what is known as Type 2 diabetes (Type 1 diabetes is detected on childbirth). The good news is that due to science research and developments in treatment, it is easier than ever to live with it.

Since with diabetes, the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin, sugar and fat remain in the blood, causing fatigue, frequent urination, excessive thirst and irritability. The disease can drastically affect a person's day-to-day life, as he or she might experience difficulties in concentrating, which can affect work performance, or may suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to organ and nerve damage and increase a person's risk of heart disease, stroke and blindness.

The key to managing diabetes is keeping your blood sugar levels stable. You can do this by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and keeping your weight in check, but, in order to succeed, you may also need insulin injections. Studies show that patients who keep their blood sugar levels close to normal may experience fewer diabetes-related complications and lead healthier lives. But experts indicate that the sooner you get your blood sugar under control, the better you will be.

Thus, you should work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that is right for you. If you need insulin, tell your doctor how often you exercise and eat and what your usual diet contains or what times you eat. Also mention which medications and vitamins you take, if any. This will help your doctor determine what type of insulin is best for you and what your dosage should be. Keep in mind that your insulin dosage will likely be adjusted many times until the best level for your case is reached, but you will soon be on the road to feeling like yourself again if you follow doctors' advice and keep your diet healthy, you exercise regularly and you maintain a constant sleeping pattern.