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Prevention: Diabetes

Natalie Williams Breast Care Foundation

By Dr. Sharon K.

Do people in your immediate family have diabetes?  Are you African American, or of Latin descent? Have you been feeling extremely tired lately?  Are you overweight or gaining weight? Extreme cravings?  Very thirsty?  Are you urinating frequently? Blurry vision or nausea? Do you have recurrent yeast infections?

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*Keep in mind that it is possible to develop diabetes without these initial symptoms.

According to the American Diabetes Association, over 5,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed every day. 79 million adults in the United States are pre-diabetic. This condition increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

There are three different types of Diabetes.  Type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. We will touch upon them all, but the most common form is type 2 diabetes. Diabetes, in all its forms, is related to insulin and its ability to transfer sugar into the body.

Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the body gets rid of the cells that produce insulin. Therefore there is not enough insulin made in the person to deal with sugar.

Type 2 Diabetes is related to insulin resistance. This means that the person does not have enough insulin to deal with the glucose loads that are being put into their body. When the excess glucose cannot be broken down by the insulin, the person will more than likely develop diabetes.

Cigarette smoking and pre-existing heart disease can worsen the effects of diabetes on the body.

Gestational Diabetes is diagnosed when a person who is pregnant develops diabetes. It is important to control gestational diabetes in order to prevent the fetus from growing too large. When the baby of a diabetic mom is born, the mother may need a cesarean section or other complications of labor may occur. Gestational diabetes affects about 10% of pregnancies. When someone acquires diabetes in pregnancy they have about a 50% chance of developing diabetes outside of pregnancy.

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The Effects of Diabetes on the Body

The uncontrolled sugar floating around in the body, instead of being absorbed as nutrition, wreaks havoc on the nerves, blood vessels and many other organs.
*Diabetes can affect the eyes and can lead to visual changes, glaucoma or blindness.
*The skin can take longer to heal and can be more prone to infections.
*The kidneys may become damaged, leading to kidney failure and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.
*The vessels in the heart may become damaged and can lead to heart disease or stroke.
*The nerve damage from diabetes can affect the bowels, which can lead to a neuropathy which may cause constipation or it’s opposite, diarrhea. Some people may experience nausea or vomiting.

African Americans have almost two times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to Caucasians. The reasons are unknown. While experiencing a heart attack, an African American diabetic woman may not have the typical symptoms of chest pain. She may actually feel symptoms of heartburn, or belly pain, dizziness and may feel cold and clammy. Take these symptoms seriously; going to your doctor could save your life.

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Prevention

It is important to note that type 2 diabetes can possibly be prevented. While it is commonly a weight related issue, good nutrition and exercise can play an important role in lowering the risk of developing this disease. Exercise can also keep your blood sugar normal if you already have diabetes.

Eat a healthy diet with plenty of hydration, whole grains and fiber. Stop smoking and drink less alcohol. Type 2 diabetes affects African Americans and Latinos more often. It can be addressed in some communities by education on how important it is to have access to healthy foods at reasonable prices. Become physically active and lose the extra weight…it is truly as simple as that!

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