Health & Personal Care

Diabetes management – Living healthy with the condition

Diabetes management – Living healthy with the condition

Diabetes mellitus or diabetes is a metabolic condition that affects the body’s ability to process blood sugar. Insulin transfers the sugar from the blood to the body’s cells so that it can be used for generating energy, but diabetes leads to the body either not producing adequate insulin or being unable to use the insulin produced effectively. High blood sugar levels due to diabetes can severely damage the eyes, nerves, kidneys, and other vital organs. It can also increase the likelihood of stroke or heart disease, so diabetes management is important to improve a patient’s quality of life.

Types of diabetes
The different types of diabetes are as follows:

  • Type 1 diabetes: This is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system begins to attack the cells in the pancreas where insulin is produced. The exact cause behind this is not known. In this case, the patient becomes dependent on insulin and has to take insulin injections every day to stay healthy.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Unlike type 1 diabetes, the body produces insulin in this case. However, the cells in the body become resistant to insulin, leading to sugar buildup in the blood. This is the most common type of diabetes and is closely linked to obesity.
  • Prediabetes: This is a condition in which the blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to cause type 2 diabetes. The normal blood sugar levels are between the range of 70 and 99 mg/dL, while a diabetes patient has blood sugar levels higher than 126 mg/dL. People with prediabetes or borderline diabetes have blood sugar levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL.
  • Gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, when a woman’s body becomes less sensitive to insulin. This type of diabetes usually resolves after childbirth.

It is important to understand that each type of diabetes leads to different symptoms and is associated with different causes. One can talk to a doctor for formulating a robust diabetes management plan, based on the type of diabetes and the symptoms they experience.

The general symptoms of diabetes are as follows:

  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Loss of weight
  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Sores that don’t heal fast

In addition to these symptoms, men often experience a decreased sex drive, poor muscle strength, and problems like erectile dysfunction. Women, on the other hand, may develop frequent UTIs, yeast infections, and dry and flaky skin.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes
The common symptoms of type 1 diabetes are:

  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Unintentional loss of weight
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Mood swings

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
Common symptoms of this are:

  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Sores that don’t heal fast
  • Recurring infections

Symptoms of gestational diabetes
Most women with gestational diabetes do not show any symptoms, and the condition is diagnosed when a regular oral glucose tolerance test is performed during the third trimester of pregnancy. In some cases, women experience increased thirst and urination.

The different types of diabetes are associated with different causes:

  • Type 1 diabetes
    The cause of this autoimmune disease is not known. The only known trigger is that the immune system recognizes the insulin-generating beta cells as harmful and begins attacking them. A person’s genetics is believed to play a vital role in causing this, and type 1 diabetes may also be caused by a virus.
  • Type 2 diabetes
    This is often caused due to a combination of genetics and sedentary lifestyle choices that can lead to obesity, which is an important factor for causing type 2 diabetes. Being overweight makes the body more resistant to insulin.
  • Gestational diabetes
    This type of diabetes is triggered during pregnancy. The placenta that generates hormones makes a woman’s body less sensitive to insulin in some cases, which, in turn, can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. Women who are already overweight or gain excess weight during pregnancy are much more likely to acquire gestational diabetes.

Risk factors
Certain factors can increase the likelihood of getting diabetes, and these factors may also influence the type of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes mostly affects children and teenagers, especially those who have a parent or sibling suffering from the condition.

Type 2 diabetes
Lifestyle factors influence the risk of this type of diabetes, so healthy lifestyle choices are important for type 2 diabetes management. The chances of getting type 2 diabetes are higher when a person:

  • Is obese or overweight
  • Is above the age of 45
  • Leads a sedentary lifestyle
  • Has a parent or sibling suffering from diabetes
  • Has prediabetes or a history of gestational diabetes
  • Has high blood cholesterol levels or high blood pressure

Gestational diabetes
The chances of getting gestational diabetes increase with the age of a pregnant woman, and they are also higher when a woman:

  • Is obese or overweight
  • Has had a history of gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • Suffers from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Has a family history of gestational diabetes

Treatment options
Depending upon the type of diabetes, a doctor can help prepare a robust diabetes management plan to reduce the intensity of the symptoms. Majorly, two forms of treatments are available for diabetes management: insulin and oral medications.

Treatment for type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Monitoring the blood sugar levels: Based on the precise treatment plan, one can check their blood sugar levels multiple times a day, especially if they are taking insulin. This helps to closely monitor the levels and keep them from rising. Type 2 diabetes patients, on the other hand, do not need to check the levels so frequently. Also, close monitoring can help one understand how their body reacts to certain foods, medications, physical exercise, alcohol, stress, or any illness.

Insulin: For type 1 diabetes management, one must take insulin injections or use an insulin pump every day. Many a time, people with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes also need to take insulin therapy.

  • Different types of insulin are available in the market. For instance, a doctor can prescribe long-acting insulin, rapid-acting insulin, or any other intermediate option, depending on the symptoms. One may also have to take premixed insulin if they need more than one type of insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in check.
  • It is important to note that insulin cannot be taken in oral form as it meddles with stomach enzymes, so it is mostly injected using a fresh syringe or an insulin pen for diabetes management.
  • Another option is using the insulin pump, which is a small device worn on the body. A tube connects the tank of the insulin to a cannula implanted under the skin of the abdominal area. Nowadays, tubeless pumps are also available for people with diabetes.

Oral medications: This is another treatment option for effective diabetes management. Certain diabetes medications stimulate the pancreas to generate more insulin. Alternatively, some medications hamper the production and release of glucose from the liver into the blood, which, in turn, decreases the amount of insulin needed to transport the sugar from the blood to the cells. These medications, in combination with insulin, help treat type 2 diabetes in most cases.

Transplantation: In certain cases of type 1 diabetes, a transplantation of the pancreas might also be an option. With a successful pancreas transplant, patients no longer require insulin therapy. However, these transplants are not always successful and also pose serious health risks, so this treatment option is only prescribed to those whose diabetes cannot be controlled. It might also be prescribed to those who also require a kidney transplant.

Bariatric surgery: This treatment option is prescribed to those who have type 2 diabetes and are obese or have a Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 35.

Natural remedies
Certain lifestyle changes and home remedies can also contribute to diabetes management. One can consult a nutritionist or a doctor for charting out a well-balanced diet that provides all the vital nutrients and keeps their sugar levels in check. Here are certain steps one should follow for diabetes management:

  • Lean proteins, fresh fruits, low-fat dairy, green vegetables, and whole grains should be incorporated in the daily diet.
  • Foods that have zero nutritional value but are high in calories should be strictly avoided, as they spike the blood sugar levels. These include aerated beverages, fried foods, sodas, and sugar-rich desserts.
  • Abstain from excess alcohol consumption or quit the habit.
  • Indulge in 45 minutes of physical exercise every day, at least 5 days a week, to keep blood sugar levels and weight in check. One can opt for jogging, swimming, aerobics, or riding a bike. At the same time, a strenuous workout is not very good for diabetics, as they may experience dizziness, profuse sweating, weakness, and confusion due to excess fatigue, so it’s important not to overwork the body.
  • A decrease in BMI could cure type 2 diabetes without any medication, so it’s necessary to shed the extra pounds.

Foods to eat for diabetes management

  • Fatty fish: Fatty fish like herring, salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Including fatty fish in the regular diet is essential for diabetics, as omega-3 fats fight inflammation and reduce cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart failure or stroke and enhancing metabolic rate.
  • Leafy greens: Leafy green vegetables are rich sources of several nutrients and antioxidants that are essential for the proper functioning of the body. They are also low-calorie foods that help decrease blood sugar levels. Plus, kale, spinach, and other green vegetables have high levels of vitamin C, which helps decrease inflammation and also keeps a check on blood pressure levels.
  • Eggs: Eggs help reduce inflammation, enhance insulin sensitivity, lower the LDL or bad cholesterol levels, and add to the HDL or good cholesterol levels. People with type 2 diabetes who regularly eat two eggs can observe significant improvements in their blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Eggs are also rich sources of antioxidants and protein.
  • Chia seeds: Chia seeds are among the most effective foods for diabetes management, as they are loaded with fiber and have low carb content. The high fiber content in chia seeds reduces blood sugar levels by decreasing the rate at which the nutrients from the food are absorbed. Besides, these help lower blood pressure and keep weight in check.
  • Turmeric: Turmeric has numerous health benefits, and most of them are a result of the compound curcumin present in it. Curcumin improves kidney health among people with diabetes, which is vital as diabetes is a major cause of kidney failure. It also reduces inflammation and lowers blood sugar levels. The benefits of turmeric can increase if consumed along with black pepper, as its absorption improves.
  • Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is a probiotic food that plays a key role in diabetes management. It decreases the risk of heart disease and controls blood sugar levels too. Greek yogurt can also aid weight loss in type 2 diabetics who are overweight.
  • Nuts: Nuts are highly beneficial foods for people with diabetes, as they are rich sources of fiber and contain low digestible carbs. They help decrease inflammation and bring down blood sugar levels. Almonds and walnuts are among the most helpful nuts for diabetes management.
  • Broccoli: Broccoli is a nutrient-rich vegetable that aids in reducing insulin levels and shields the cells from free radical damage. Broccoli is packed with antioxidants and is low in calorie content, making it a healthy option for effective diabetes management.

Type 1 diabetes is generally caused due to factors that are out of our control, but type 2 diabetes can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices and staying physically active. If a person notices any of the symptoms of diabetes mentioned earlier, it’s advisable to consult a doctor at the earliest. They can not only help manage the symptoms well but also prescribe a healthy, lifelong diabetes management strategy to lead a quality life.

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