by Dr. David Mosley, an internal medicine physician with Mercy Clinic in Hazelwood, Missouri.
What is diabetes? Let’s start from the beginning.
Food you eat that has carbohydrates, like fruit, pasta, rice and crackers, turns into glucose, or sugar. In order for the sugar to be used as energy, an organ called the pancreas needs to make insulin. Type 2 diabetes happens if the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin. And, because of that, the sugar isn’t used as energy, it stays in the blood and makes the blood thicker.
Many things raise the chance of getting diabetes. The ones that you cannot change include weighing more than 9 pounds at birth; being a man; being African-American, Latino/Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American and/or Pacific Islander; being older than age 40; having a mother, father, brother or sister with diabetes; and being a woman who had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, who had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), and/or who has polycystic ovary syndrome.
If you fit any of the above, see your doctor. Also, see your doctor if you're thirsty more than usual and need to use the restroom more frequently, since these can be signs of diabetes.
There are, however, things you can do to lower your chances getting diabetes, including having a smaller waistline (less than 40 inches around for men; less than 35 inches around for women); exercising and being active (10,000 steps per day, parking farther away, taking the stairs); and not smoking.
Next, I’ll touch on why it’s important to control blood sugar if you have diabetes and what you can do to live healthy, whether you have diabetes or not.
Why control blood sugar? If there isn’t enough insulin, the sugar builds up in the blood.
Why can this hurt us? Think of a road map. Interstates are bigger, like our vessels. They take oxygen, vitamins and minerals to our organs, like the heart and brain. Country roads are small, like the little vessels that wind their way to small parts of our body like behind our eyes.
Too much sugar in the blood thickens it and makes it hard to move along the highways to make our body run right. If it can’t move like it should, the vessels get hurt. This raises the chance of a heart attack, a stroke or losing your eyesight. It can also stop your kidneys from filtering the bad stuff out like they should.
Too much sugar can also hurt our nerves. Nerves are like a traffic light system. They give signals to make our muscles and organs work. If they don’t work right, someone can have pain, burning or no feeling at all in the feet or legs, or have trouble with their stomach. Diabetes is a head-to-toe disease. If the sugar is too high, every part of the body can be hurt.
Have you ever heard the phrase “touch of diabetes?" Any time the doctor says you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, it’s serious. I often hear patients say they feel fine, so there is no need to check blood sugar or eat better. But we know that diabetes can hurt us on the inside even when we don’t feel it or there are no clear signs.
Finding ways to live healthier, lowers the chance of diabetes hurting you in the ways we discussed above, even if right now it’s just a “touch” of diabetes.