Did you know managing diabetes is way more than just taking the right medications?
We’ve heard the basics, right? Avoid sugary foods, check your blood sugar often, exercise, etc. Though doctors have learned quite a lot over the past 100 years, the truth is that we still don’t know everything about the disease, and the things we’re learning are sometimes surprising. Ever since the discovery of insulin, a sugar-regulating hormone, modern medicine has made some leaps and bounds in understanding a few different types of diabetes- and yes, there are a few types!
Here are some facts about diabetes you might not know.
It’s More Than Just Type 1 and Type 2
Type 1 Diabetes has always been defined as an autoimmune disease. This kind of disease means your own immune system attacks the body; in this case, pancreatic cells are destroyed so that insulin can’t be produced.
Type 2 diabetes means your pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and the body’s cells have trouble taking in sugar- leaving too much sugar in the bloodstream. Most people know about these two types, but more categories have been made to better define diabetes.
Type 3 has been used to describe when someone with Alzheimer’s disease has diabetes; research has found a strong link between Alzheimer’s and high blood sugar.
Another type is MODY, or “Maturity-onset of diabetes in the young”, which occurs in early adulthood and is caused by a specific gene mutation.
LADA, or “Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults” is sometimes called type 1.5 since it’s an autoimmune problem, but it progresses slower than type 1. It can be managed without insulin at first, but eventually, insulin is needed. LADA usually appears after age 30, while type 1 most often develops in childhood.
Gestational diabetes, while it also needs to be monitored carefully, occurs with pregnancy and goes away after giving birth. Also, being diabetic while pregnant does not mean the baby will be diabetic too.
It Can Lead to Other Complications
Unmanaged diabetes has been linked many types of health problems, including:
- Higher likelihood of getting infections
- Kidney disease
- Sleep apnea
- Limb Amputation
- Some types of cancer
Remember that even with diabetes, all of these can be prevented by seeing your doctor regularly to keep your health in check!
Type 2 Isn’t Always Caused by Diet
Although the risk for getting type 2 diabetes is higher if you’re overweight, there are many other factors at play. About 12.5% of people in the U.S. with type 2 are considered to be a healthy weight. Just getting older can mean there is a higher risk of developing it; sometimes, family genetics are to blame.
Though we often associate blood sugar levels as being a reflection of diet, many other everyday things can cause sugar spikes:
- Certain medications
- Lack of sleep
- Time of day
When all of these factors add up, it can be hard to monitor your diabetes!
It Can Lead to Mental Health Issues
Managing the disease can be stressful and depression is two to three times more likely to develop in people with diabetes. “Burnout” is also not unusual- people unable to deal with it may neglect to take care of themselves and cause even more complications.
Another problem that can develop is Diabulimia, a body-image disorder that affects mostly young women. People with the disorder will skip insulin shots in an effort to lose weight. Luckily, many studies today recognize the emotional impact of diabetes and mental health resources have increased to help handle these issues.
Stress Management is Essential
More recent research has found an associations between lower blood glucose levels and the ability to manage stress. One study by the National Center for Biotechnology found that practicing mindfulness is a proven method of short-term regulation of blood sugar and lowering blood pressure. Stress management not only affects the body, but it can totally change your attitude towards having diabetes and thus improve your quality of life. Other ways to take care of yourself emotionally are through:
- Deep breathing exercises
- CBT therapy
- Support from friends and family
Other Ways to manage blood sugar levels
Type 2 Diabetes can be managed with small, but important changes in our lifestyle. These include:
- Healthy eating: Specifically, low-carb, high fat diets have proven effective. Depending on your type, your diet may vary, but typically increasing fruits and vegetables and fiber overall is recommended. Remember to talk to your doctor before trying out a specific diet plan
- Weight loss: With healthy eating and exercise, losing weight is extremely helpful for a diabetic’s overall health.
- Exercise: Even if you’re unable to do certain activities, there are benefits to all kinds of workouts - it doesn’t have to be intense. Talk to your doctor about what kinds of exercises is best for you.
Diabetes can make its mark in many areas of life and it goes way beyond managing your sugar intake. An optimistic outlook on life, some lifestyle changes and quality care from medical professionals can make a world of difference.