Diabetes is the inability of the body to create or use insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that enables sugar or glucose, to enter the cells. Diabetes is a serious, chronic metabolic disorder in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or does not respond to the insulin being produced. The body normally breaks down most of our food into glucose, a sugar that serves as the body’s main source of energy. In order for glucose to move into the cells of the body, it requires the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. In healthy individuals, the body usually produces enough insulin to do this, but for people with diabetes, this does not occur.
This causes glucose to build up in the blood instead of moving into the cells. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to serious health problems that may damage the blood vessels, nerves, heart, eyes and kidneys. While diabetes can lead to serious complications, it can often be successfully managed through diet, lifestyle modifications or medication.
Complications of Diabetes
Left untreated, uncontrolled blood sugar levels caused by diabetes may result in serious complications. If not treated properly, diabetes can lead to nerve damage, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. It can also cause permanent eye, foot, skin and bone damage. A lifelong commitment is necessary to prevent these complications from occurring.
It is important for people with diabetes to take an active role in the management of their condition. Adhering to a healthy lifestyle and monitoring blood glucose levels are essential in preventing complications.
Most forms of diabetes can be managed, and with medical treatment or lifestyle modifications, people can live relatively healthy lives.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes, because it is often diagnosed in children, however it can also affect adults.
Type 1 diabetes is the result of an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, disabling the body’s ability to produce insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of preventable diabetes and is influenced by age, obesity and family history. Although the pancreas usually produces enough insulin, the body cannot use it effectively and production slowly decreases.
Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are high but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. A diagnosis of prediabetes puts the patient at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is often addressed by losing weight and incorporating a daily exercise regimen.
Gestational diabetes is characterized by high levels of blood sugar during the later stages of pregnancy. While the exact cause is not completely understood, it is suspected that the hormones produced during pregnancy prevent insulin in the mother’s body from working, resulting in insulin resistance and hyperglycemia. Gestational diabetes does not cause birth defects but it can affect the baby’s glucose levels and result in a larger birth weight.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the pressure of the blood flowing against the artery walls is above the normal range. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood the heart pumps and the blood flow resistance in the arteries. If the heart pumps more blood than normal, and the arteries are narrower than normal, the result is high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure can cause serious health problems, including heart attack, kidney failure and stroke. There are two types of high blood pressure: primary and secondary. Primary hypertension is high blood pressure that develops gradually over the course of time, and secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that results from an underlying medical condition.
Blood Pressure Diagnosis & Measurement
Blood pressure is commonly measured during a physical exam. An inflatable arm cuff is fit around the arm and measures the blood pressure using a pressure-measuring gauge.
This gauge yields two sets of numbers. The first number is the systolic reading, which is the pressure when the heart is beating. The second number is the diastolic number, the pressure when the heart is resting.High blood pressure occurs when the systolic reading is at 140 or higher and the diastolic reading is 90 or above.
Cholesterol is produced by the liver, the intestines and nearly all tissues in the body. Cholesterol is needed for the production of hormones, vitamin D and the bile necessary to digest the fats in food. Cholesterol also protects cell membranes from changes in temperature. While a certain amount of cholesterol is needed, too much cholesterol is unhealthy. An excessive amount of cholesterol can block blood flow in the arteries.
This lack of blood flow can lead to a stroke. While there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, a simple blood test can provide patients with results. Cholesterol levels can be controlled or reduced with an active and healthy lifestyle. In some cases, medication may be necessary to control high levels of cholesterol.
Complications of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol levels increase the risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. High levels of “bad” cholesterol can lead to serious complications, including:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
Initially, high cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis, an accumulation of cholesterol and fat deposits on the walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis can then cause any of the conditions listed above.
Types of Cholesterol
There are three different types of cholesterol.Different blood tests are performed to individually measure each type of cholesterol. A total cholesterol test measures all types of cholesterol in the blood and the results indicate whether the bad cholesterol levels are too high.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” cholesterol because elevated HDL levels may reduce the risks for heart disease or stroke. It is believed that HDL returns excess cholesterol to the liver for elimination from the body.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) comprises the majority of the body’s cholesterol. It is considered to be the “bad” cholesterol because it builds up in the walls of the arteries causing them to narrow, blocking blood flow and leading to heart disease or stroke.
Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) is composed of cholesterol, triglycerides and proteins. VLDL contains the highest amount of triglycerides than any other lipoprotein and is considered to be a “bad” type of cholesterol.