Diabetes is a pretty common condition in the US and the world. It is the leading cause of heart disease, lower limb amputation, rising cases of blindness in senior citizens, nerve damage, kidney failure and stroke. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, over 10 million adults older than 65 years were diagnosed with diabetes as at 2010. In the same year, more than 1.9 million people older than 20 were diagnosed as diabetic while 200,000 people less than 20 years were diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes –that’s 50%-75% more than in the previous decade. In all, the study shows that there are currently around 26 million people with diagnosed (over 18 million) and undiagnosed (over 7 million) diabetes. And the population of people with prediabetes? Almost 80 million. These are frankly, very scary numbers. That means roughly 1 in 4 Americans is either diabetic or about to become diabetic. There are two common types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Others include Gestational Diabetes (induced by pregnancy and sometimes resolves after childbirth), Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY) and Cystic-Fibrosis Related Diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually more common in kids and young adults younger than 20 years, but adults older than 20 years are frequently diagnosed too. It’s an autoimmune disease that’s caused by the body attacking the cells that produces insulin. This attack results in a rapid decrease in the amount of insulin produced in the body by the pancreas. While there is no specific reason as to its cause or the reason for the increasing number of patients, there are indications that it might be a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Well, that and the fact that more people are getting access to basic medical facilities. Some research, albeit inconclusive are pointing to the fact that some viral infections might trigger this autoimmune response in people who are already genetically susceptible to the condition. The viruses in question are generally called the enteric viruses usually found in the intestine. What Can You Do to Manage Type 1 Diabetes? Unfortunately, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes as of yet. But, if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, fear not. There are steps you can take to manage your health and live a fully functional life.
- Always take your insulin injections as prescribed by the physician. Intensive insulin therapy is usually essential for preventing cardiovascular diseases.
- Do the necessary pricks to check your blood sugar levels during the day. It’s a minor inconvenience, but is necessary to ensure that your blood sugar isn’t dangerously high.
- Alter your eating and lifestyle habits. This means smaller portions of carbs, sugars and anything that will spike your blood sugar levels. You’ll also need to avoid fatty foods with cholesterols (LDL) and excessive alcohol intake. Instead, eat more vegetables and fruits, drink more water and adopt a healthy eating habit. Your dietician will set you up with a list of foods to eat and avoid.
- Start exercising more often. If you’ve been sedentary up till now, you need to start living actively. Something as simple as a 30 minute walk every day will keep you healthy.
- Pay prompt attention to all associated condition like high blood pressure. Be careful about infections, cuts and take very good care of your feet. Avoid getting athlete’s foot by putting some dusting powder in your shoes or socks before wearing them and remove your shoes as soon as you can so your legs will get some fresh air.
- If you sustain any wounds, be sure to attend to them immediately. The major cause of amputation among diabetic patients is infected wounds that never heal and become gangrenous or septic.
Finally, diabetes is a not a death sentence. It doesn’t have to define you or get you depressed. Indulge in lots of laughter –if you never used to like comedy, now would be a good time to start- and positive company. So, live fully and enjoy every moment –within reason of course- of your life.