What is diabetes?

Learn about Diabetes

 

After you eat a meal the nutrients you absorb will raise your blood glucose. Your pancreas makes the hormone insulin to lower your glucose and bring back the balance. You can get diabetes if you either make insufficient amounts of insulin or if insulin doesn’t work well at a cellular level. The first group of people have Type 1 diabetes and the second group have Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is usually seen in younger people (less than 20 years old). There is damage to the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. This is usually due to the actions of the immune system destroying these cells.

Type 2 diabetes used to be seen only in slightly older people (more than 20 years old).  However, nowadays we are starting to see it in much younger people, even in children less than 10 years old! This is due to a combination of genetic factors and lifestyle factors. That is why some people with a bad lifestyle never get diabetes. It is also why some people who make the right food choices and exercise daily still get this disease. I know this is unfair, but the good news is that a good lifestyle can counteract the effect of bad genetics (which, let’s face it, we can’t change). You can learn more about the specific steps necessary on this site.

Insulin Resistance

In people with Type 2 diabetes, the hormone insulin doesn’t work effectively in cells. The pancreas makes higher than normal levels of insulin to compensate. This phenomenon is called insulin resistance. A combination of the right food, right exercise and right medications will reduce insulin resistance, which is the root problem in Type 2 diabetes. The best thing you can do to reduce insulin resistance is to lose weight. You can read about how to do this here. If you have a normal weight but still have insulin resistance, you can reduce it through exercise and the right medications.

Diabetes damages Blood VesselsDiabetes: A disease of blood vessels

You can think of diabetes as a disease of the blood vessels. Why? High glucose levels damage your blood vessels and almost all the complications of diabetes are directly or indirectly related to this. Heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage and amputations are all caused by defects in the blood vessels supplying organs or limbs.

How do high blood glucose levels damage blood vessels? I spent years in the lab studying this particular field during my PhD. It is a broad subject, but in short diabetes affects the ability of the blood vessels to dilate, which in turn affects blood flow. It also damages the inner lining of blood vessels and increases the chance of a clot.

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