What Causes Diabetes and How to Prevent and Treat It
Diabetes concept measure with fruits and vegetables in background ensuring a healthy lifestyle

What is diabetes?

Diabetes – I’m sure we’ve all heard about it, but how many of us actually know what it means? The term diabetes actually refers to a group of diseases that can arise due to a rage of causes. In general, people who have diabetes have high blood glucose. This state can also be referred to as high blood sugar or hyperglycemia.

Diabetes can be classified into two common main types – type 1 and type 2. They are brought about by different causes.

Diabetes can be classified into two common main types – type 1 and type 2. They are brought about by different causes.

What are the causes of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its own beta cells even though its normal function is to protect the body from infection by destroying viruses, bacteria and other harmful foreign substances. Diabetes then occurs when there is insufficient insulin due to the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults, although it is possible for it to occur in persons of any age.

Genetic Susceptibility

One important factor in determining a person’s likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes is heredity. Many genes that are passed down from biological parent to child have been found to be influential in determining susceptibility to and protection from type 1 diabetes.

Autoimmune Destruction of Beta Cells

Research has suggested that insulin itself might be an important trigger for the immune system attacking the beta cells. Put simply, people who are susceptible to developing type 1 diabetes have immune systems that respond to insulin as if it were an antigen (or foreign substance).

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can play a significant role in the development of type 1 diabetes. Possible factors include food ingested and toxins present in the environment. It has been suggested that environmental factors can trigger the immune system’s attack on beta cells.

Viruses and Infections

Viruses alone are unable to bring about type 1 diabetes, but there has been a correlation between viral infections and diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. This suggests that there is a link between the two. Also, type 1 diabetes often develops during the winter, which is also the period of time in which viral infections are common.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes – more so than type 1 diabetes. It can be brought about by a number of factors. A person with type 2 diabetes is unable to utilise insulin effectively, and at the same time is unable to produce enough insulin to compensate for the impaired ability to use insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is most common in middle-aged and older people who are overweight. However, it can also be found in obese children and adolescents.

Genetic Susceptibility

Genes are one of the most critical factors regarding susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. This is proven by the high rate of type 2 diabetes in families, especially in the cases of identical twins. Also, there are distinct variations in type 2 diabetes prevalence by ethnicity – namely, African Americans, American Indians and Pacific Islander Americans are amongst the ethnic groups that seem to be most susceptible to type 2 diabetes.

Genes can also affect a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by increasing his or her tendency to become overweight.

Obesity and Physical Inactivity

If your caloric intake is much higher than your level of physical activity, this can lead to obesity, which causes insulin resistance. This then contributes to susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. It is alright to have a high caloric intake, but do ensure that you have a relatively high level of physical activity to go with it.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is common amongst people who are overweight, have excess abdominal fat, and are not physically active. Because of these factors, their liver cells respond ineffectively to insulin. The pancreas is then stimulated to produce extra insulin. The combination of ineffective insulin utilization and beta cell dysfunction causes blood glucose levels to rise, resulting in diabetes.

How can I prevent diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, but you can prevent type 2 diabetes by making the following healthy lifestyle choices.

Be more physically active:

Try to get about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Choose to take a walk instead of the bus, or the stairs instead of the elevator. Or you could take a nice relaxing swim after a long day at work. It will go a long way in preventing obesity and hence diabetes.

Lose excess weight:

If you are currently overweight, do try to get your weight down to a healthy range. A good guide is to aim to lose 7 percent of your body weight. So if you are currently weighing in at 90.9 kilograms (200 pounds), simply aim to lose 6.4 kilograms (14 pounds) and you would have reduced your risk of diabetes.

Have a healthy diet:

Reduce your consumption of foods that are high in calories and fat content. Choose instead to have more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Lean meats are a good idea as well.

Medication:

Oral medication for diabetes can help to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Such drugs include but are not limited to Glucophage and Glumetza.

How is diabetes treated?

Diabetes used to be a fatal disease a long time ago, before insulin was discovered. But with advances in medical technology and knowledge, people diagnosed with diabetes are able to lead a normal life.

The most important aim of diabetes management are the following – keeping blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. To do this, you need to lead a healthy lifestyle – have a healthy diet, get adequate physical activity – and take insulin. Regarding the taking of insulin, it is important to balance your insulin intake with the amount of food you eat. Your level of physical activity also affects the timing and quantity of insulin you need to take.

Other things to take note of:

Monitoring your blood glucose levels:

You should go for regular blood tests to monitor your blood glucose levels in order to ensure that it isn’t fluctuating too widely.

Monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels:

Although these aren’t directly related to diabetes, diabetics tend to be at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. As such, it is essential that you monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in order to prevent developing cardiovascular disease. Eating healthily, doing frequent exercise and avoiding smoking will help as well..

 

http://www.diabetes.co.uk/treatment.html

http://www.medicinenet.com/diabetes_treatment/article.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prevention.html

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/preventing-diabetes-full-story/

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/diabetes/

http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/causes-diabetes/Pages/index.aspx

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Diabetes-type2/Pages/Treatment.aspx

 

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