Haims: Understanding why diabetes is on the rise | VailDaily.com

Haims: Understanding why diabetes is on the rise

Understanding diabetes takes a little understanding of biology. When we digest food, our body breaks down what we eat and eventually causes the food to be broken down into small molecules. Some of these molecules are carbohydrates which are turned into sugars (glucose) to be used as fuel.

Insulin is the “key” and the essential hormone in regulating diabetes. It is made in the pancreas in clusters of cells called islets. One of the ways diabetes develops is when cells within our body cannot get the fuel they need because the hormone insulin is unavailable to help glucose get from the bloodstream into muscle, fat, and other cells to be stored as fuel. Another way diabetes develops is when our body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. When this happens, glucose stays in our blood and doesn’t reach our cells.

When glucose is unable to get into cells, blood sugar levels within our body rise too high and we become hyperglycemic. This condition not only has the potential to cause a diabetic coma or stroke, but also affects blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. 

Types of diabetes

In Type 1 diabetes, the body makes little or no insulin. Typically, although it can appear at any age, it most often occurs in children and young adults. To remedy this, daily insulin injections are needed to maintain blood glucose levels.

In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not make good use of the insulin that it produces. Ninety percent of all diabetes cases are Type 2 and it is most common among adults. While it is best managed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle (diet), weight management, and physical activity, oral medications and insulin may be necessary.

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Although there currently is no cure for diabetes, progress is being made. Researchers have found that a cell type produced in the pancreas called Beta cells (β cells) is responsible for producing, releasing, and controlling insulin levels. Managing β cells in diabetics is challenging because as glucose levels rise, the production of β cells is impaired. New discoveries are indicating that β cells may be modified with a protein that will protect them from oxidative damage due in part to glucose toxicity.

Further research indicates that a new drug called teplizumab may be able to delay the development of Type 1 diabetes. The purpose of this drug is to keep the body’s immune response system from attacking the insulin-producing β cells. The drug may assist in reducing the harmful effects of diabetes.

The onset of diabetes has become far more common in young adults over the past couple of decades. In 2017, it is estimated that there were about 213,00 youths under the age of 20 diagnosed with diabetes. Comparatively, researchers expect that in just three decades there will be a 700% increase. This should be a wake-up call for all of us. As a society we are not eating well, nor are we staying physically fit.

 The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted a study indicating that over a 20-year period from 2000 to 2020, the prevalence of diabetes in the United States rose from 30.5% to 41.9%. By 2028, there could be over 34% of the population diagnosed as obese.

Fending off diabetes with good lifestyle choices

There is no cure for diabetes. While modern science is making headway in developing therapies that may mitigate the devastating effects, each of us needs to participate in our own well-being. Debra Houry, the acting principal deputy director for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, has said it best: “It’s vital that we focus our efforts to ensure all Americans, especially our young people, are the healthiest they can be.”

We can best manage prediabetes and diabetes by adopting good lifestyle choices. This starts with exercising, avoiding sugary beverages, drinking lots of water, reducing the number of foods we consume that are high in carbohydrates, and above all, managing our weight.

No matter if you subscribe to views supporting that natural diabetic treatments like supplements, teas, and spices are effective, or if you believe that western meds are the cure-all, what is proven as fact is, exercise and diet matter.  

People don’t have to commit to plant-based diets, or difficult-to-maintain diets, to be healthy and reduce the chances of becoming diabetic. Rather, people need to be aware that some of the food choices they make are not the best. If incorporating vegetables or fish high in omega-3 fatty acids is not your thing, consider incorporating simple yummy foods like berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, whole grains, or steel-cut oats

Death from diabetes can be avoided. What are you willing to do to avoid it?

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.  

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