Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes: Could You Have It But Not Know It?
Diabetes can be a silent killer.  It's scary. 

Two Types of Diabetes 

Type One Diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce sufficient insulin to convert starches and sugar into energy for the body to use.  This typically gets diagnosed in childhood/youth and is not preventable - you often hear it referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, but that's because it gets diagnosed early; it continues to affect you throughout life.  The body just cannot produce enough insulin.  Type One Diabetes is treated through insulin therapy and other strategies.  It can be a fatal disease, but is usually manageable with proper treatment. 

Type Two Diabetes can be caused by the body not producing enough insulin, or by the cells ignoring the insulin the body produces.  Type Two Diabetes affects the majority of people with diabetes and is both preventable and manageable.  Exercise and diet are the major factors in preventing Type Two Diabetes.  Type Two Diabetes was typically seen in adults. Unfortunately, today we see more and more children diagnosed with it.  That is part of the reason behind the current effort to reduce sugary products in schools. 

Because diabetes is such a big risk to our health, I've decided to join the campaign to blog regularly thoughout November on this topic.  I'll add more content every few days (I will try for every day) and add links to help you learn more about this health problem.

Why Do I Care?

Diabetes is part of my family.  My grandfather had Type Two Diabetes and lived to the ripe age of 96.  He walked every day, outlived most of his doctors, and lived by the "apple a day" prescription common to his generation.  He was insulin-dependent (depended on insulin shots to help regulate the amount of insulin in his body so it could process sugars properly) but had few complications.  He was lucky. 

My cousin had Type One Diabetes and died from complications in her early 30s.  It was a shock to us.  This was nearly 30 years ago and we know that treatments today have improved.  But it's still a serious disease that requires careful treatment.  Her body had great difficulty processing insulin and even with proper management, she had a great many complications.  I remember my mother cooking dinners for her and bringing them to her in the Joslin Clinic, right down to china plates and a small vase with a rose, so she could feel somewhat at home even in the hospital.  She was there for amputation of one of her toes.  You see, poor circulation is one of common complications of diabetes.  Poor circulation and neuropathy - nerve damage with resulting loss of sensation - means that even a small cut in the foot can lead to serious infections.

One uncle died from complication from Type Two Diabetes.  Although he was in his later 70s and we had the benefit of having him around for many years, tell that to his wife and children who miss him.  Another uncle was diagnosed just a few years ago.  In his 80s, he is managing it.

It just seems as if it runs in our family.  So it is important to me and to everyone else in my family.   One of my four brothers has hypoglycemia - which is caused when the body uses up glucose (sugar) too quickly, glucose is released by the body too slowly, or the body produces too much insulin for the body to process properly.  Hypoglycemia can occur in people with diabetes, but there is condition called Idopathic Hypoglycemia where the cause of this imbalance is unknown and the person does not have diabetes. 

Growing up with this so much a part of my family, especially my grandfather and cousin, I learned from my mother to cook with about half the sugar called for in any recipe and always use less salt than stated.  I don't even add salt after cooking.  I watch in wonder as I see people in restaurants pick up the salt and pour it on food they haven't even tasted yet!  People often don't seem to know how to appreciate the taste of the actual food they're eating.  Salt can flavor food, but it also helps regulate fluids in the body.  Too much salt, however, can cause health complications such as high blood pressure (hypertension)

Consider this: every french fry from that fast food place is loaded with salt!  Some places actually add sugar to the cooking oil.  Would you sit down and pour sugar on your french fries?  If we start considering how much sugar and salt are in the preprocessed or precooked foods we eat, we might find that we are killing ourselves through ignorance.  If we can cook more at home and bring that home cooking to work for lunch, we can cut a huge chunk out of our poor food choices. 

Speaking of work - I've got to go!  See you in a day or two with another post on Diabetes -- or whatever else is On My Mind.


  1. This is good Claire, so many People are affected by Diabetes.
    How about posting some basic tips on prevention?
    Jeff hansell

  2. Terrific Idea Jeff. Thanks for looking and thinking. Since I plan to post as much as possible on this topic this month, I'll use that for at least one day's post.