8 Things You Need to Know About Diabetes
What is Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Scientists think type 1 diabetes is caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses, that might trigger the disease.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, is caused by several factors, including genes and lifestyle factors such as eating bad food, lack of exercise and weight gain. Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to keep up with the added demand. Over time, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.
Diabetes is a chronic disease. With the proper treatment, the blood glucose levels can be controlled to slow down the occurrence of vascular complications allowing a diabetic to live as long as someone who is not diabetic.
Good care at the early stage of diabetes is very important to the long term management of diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in which there is too much glucose in the blood. Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage the body’s organs. Possible complications include damage to large (macro vascular) and small (micro vascular) blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and problems with the kidneys, eyes, gums, feet and nerves.
The good news is the risk of most diabetes-related complications can be reduced by keeping blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels within the recommended range. Maintaining an ideal weight, eating healthy, reducing alcohol intake, and not smoking will also help reduce your risk.
Regular check-ups and screening are important to pick up any problems early.
Diabetes is a chronic disease where blood sugar level gradually rises over time
Type 1 diabetes is treated with a combination of insulin injections, diet and exercise. People can manage type 2 diabetes in the early stage through proper diet, weight management and exercise without the need for medication.
The new generation of diabetes medication has minimal side effects and can slow down the occurrence of coronary artery disease and kidney failure.
Over time, the beta cells in the pancreas will gradually decline as age increases. The sugar levels in the bloodstream gradually increase and results in the need for additional medication to lower blood sugar and regulate blood glucose levels.
Food is a key factor in controlling sugar level
Food quality and proportion management is the first priority in managing diabetes. Carbohydrate intake is the main factor in diabetes control.
- Try to eat low Glycemic index foods.
- Avoid high-sugar drinks such as soft drinks, fruit juices and energy drinks.
- Fill half your plate with green vegetables.
- Be careful of processed food and snacks like potato chips.
Exercise as a medicine
Exercise is a crucial component of controlling diabetes. Exercise can help you:
- Improve your blood sugar levels
- Boost your overall fitness
- Manage your weight
- Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke
- Improve you well-being
Experts recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intense physical activities such as:
- Fast walking
- Lap swimming
Aim for 4 days per week, for at least 30-45 minutes a session, when first starting an exercise program.
Test your blood sugar level patterns each day.
Self-testing your blood sugar at different times of the day can be an important tool in managing your treatment plan and preventing diabetes complications. You can test your blood sugar with a portable electronic glucose meter that measures sugar level in a small drop of your blood.
Blood sugar testing provides useful information for diabetes management. It can help you:
- Judge how well you’re reaching overall treatment goals
- Understand how diet and exercise affect blood sugar levels
- Monitor the effect of diabetes medications on blood sugar levels
- Identify blood sugar levels that are high or low
The doctor can use this information to adjust the dose so that the sugar levels in each period are stable throughout the day.
The need for insulin injections can’t be avoided
You may feel some fear about insulin therapy. But insulin injections are key to treatment.
Insulin injections are your most effective way to keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range when lifestyle changes and other medications cannot. Because of the way your body breaks insulin down, you can’t take it in pill form.
Insulin comes in vials, prefilled disposable dosing devices, and cartridges. The cartridges are designed to be placed in dosing pens. Insulin pen devices allow for accurate, flexible, and less complicated delivery of insulin for the treatment of diabetes. These devices permit small dose administration, and can be used by patients with limited dexterity and visual impairment.
Stay up to date on the latest diabetes knowledge – don’t be misguided by false information
Educating yourself about diabetes and about the injection process is a good first step. It will help you gain the confidence you need to follow through with your treatment plan.
Strive to keep your diabetes knowledge up to date, including information on new drug therapies, diet recommendations and therapeutic exercises. Modern research is developing a new generation of drugs nearly every year. Don’t be misguided by false information. Always consult a physician about the diagnosis, treatment and management of diabetes.
Reliable sources of diabetes information include:
Dr. Promphan Pruksakorn, MD
Internal Medicine – Endocrinology and Metabolism
Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai