Fake news has been all the rage lately. The medical industry had fake news in the form of misinformation which has abounded since far before the Internet became a thing. How many times have you heard the results of the latest study which only contradicts previous information that has been presented to you as fact? The very Internet itself provides incentive in many forms to simply create thought provoking content, which may or may not be factual. It’s hard to know what to believe anymore.
That is the quandary in which many diabetics find themselves. They work hard to reverse their condition but they cannot and will not get a straight answer about anything that holds consistent across the medical field. Can diabetes be cured? What is pre-diabetes? How many times should I test and what should I do with those results? What is normal blood sugar, and what is a diabetic test?
Worse, most diabetics don’t even know they are diabetic. There are about 30 million diagnosed diabetics with an additional 86 million prediabetes patients in the United States. How many are undiagnosed is another area where one would have trouble finding a straight answer that is consistent across a network of experts.
Yep, it’s a tough spot to have any modern disease because there is just a lot we do not know yet. Most of the time you will hear the glass is half full explanation of where we are in medical history. We know so much more now than we ever have, however there is so much we do not know that we have quite a long way to go before we fully explore the complicated machine and the many potential malfunctions of the human body.
So where does a diabetic start? First, know who to trust, and know WHAT to trust. We are pretty good about realizing symptoms and correlating them to causes. You may have first been diagnosed when you had increased A1C, excessive thirst, nausea, fatigue, blurry vision, infections (skin, vaginal, urinary), extreme hunger, weight gain or loss, irritability, slow recovery, or numbness/tingling of the hands or feet. These common symptoms of diabetes let your clinician know enough to run some tests and perhaps discover that you are in fact diabetic.
Once you have been diagnosed, you should try to understand your disease and how to affect it. Diabetes is a disease of complications. It can lead to dental disease, complications in pregnancy, hypertension, eye problems (leading to blindness in some cases), amputation, disease of the nervous system, stroke, or heart disease. Type 2 is the most common, encompassing over 90% of diabetic patients.
A common misconception is that diabetes is a disease mainly concerning sugar in the blood (that is partially correct). This is not entirely accurate, as diabetes is actually a disorder of insulin/leptin signaling. Insulin insensitivity is key here. Your pancreas’ main purpose in life is to produce insulin and secrete it to scale with the amount of sugar in your body. This sugar then is converted to energy or stored as fat. This regulates blood glucose in your body, keeping your blood just the right consistency not to damage the very small veins and arteries in your eyes, kidneys, and extremities.
Sometimes, when our pancreas gets a lot of workout or is not performing as it should, it lead to a cascade of problems over time. When it doesn’t work correctly, the sugar we put into our bodies is not processed correctly, our blood sugar goes up, our blood chemistry is now wrong and our blood vessels start to become damaged, cut, and scarred more and more over time. Some common risk factors are age, weight, blood pressure, family history, physical activity level, depression, sleep apnea, etc.
Thus keeping blood sugar within “normal levels” is key to preventing this inconsistency of blood mixture (blood chemistry). That is why checking your blood sugar (blood glucose levels) is so important. The more time you are outside of normal parameters, the more time the poor consistency of the blood has to damage those sensitive areas. Thus the key to combating this “damage over time” caused by diabetes is to keep your blood sugar inside normal ranges for as much of the time as possible. Think of it as if you are helping your pancreas to do its job and that can be a full time job.
Imagine that every time your blood glucose goes over 170ml/dl an invisible clock starts counting down. Once that clock reaches a certain time, say exactly 5 years of time, over 170ml/dl then some part of your body, say your eyes, will finally cease to function at a necessary level for daily usage. If you knew for certain that your eyes would cease to function after exactly 5 cumulative years of time had added up where your blood glucose was over 170ml/dl, you would probably be keeping a very close eye on that blood glucose level. The actuality isn’t that clear cut, as more damage is done the higher your blood glucose will fluctuate, and the human body is resilient under certain circumstances and can restore some portion of damage during periods where little/no damage is done. However to properly combat your disease, you should act as if that timer is counting when you have high blood glucose. When your blood glucose is too high, take steps to reduce it. Take prescribed medication and certainly do not eat foods high on the glycemic index.