Diabetes and Endocrinology
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High blood sugar levels can lead to serious complications. Because of this, it is essential to understand your risk of diabetes and how to manage it.
What is diabetes?
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 occurs when someone’s pancreas makes little to no insulin, a hormone that helps regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in our blood. Type 2 occurs when insulin is produced but not used properly by the body.
According to Kristie Farkash, a nurse practitioner with focuses in endocrinology and diabetes, insulin is the key to understanding how our body uses sugar.
“The key of insulin unlocks cells and allows sugar to get into our cells to give us energy,” says Kristie.
Without this, sugar would be stored in the bloodstream—and never used.
So the lack of insulin, or the improper use of it, can harm the body. “Imagine sugar molecules as large, sticky, and stiff,” Kristie says. “Thus, too much sugar can be damaging to the delicate vessels in our bodies, especially to vessels in the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart.”
Risks and warning signs
The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown, but factors like genetics and being overweight can lead to type 2. For those who are at risk, it’s important to know the symptoms of diabetes, such as
- unexplained weight loss
- increased thirst
- increased urination
The trouble, as Kristie points out, is that it’s too difficult to feel when you have high blood sugar. “Since people often feel totally normal when their blood sugar is high,” she says, “a great strategy for catching the disease early is to see your doctor on a regular basis and stay up to date with recommended wellness, labs, and screenings.
Prolonged high blood sugar levels can cause vision loss, kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes, and damage to the feet.
Type 1 diabetes requires insulin for treatment. However, type 2 diabetes can be managed through lifestyle choices and medications.
“Activity and a balanced eating plan are crucial to preventing or slowing the progression of the disease,” Kristie says.
For instance, walking for 10 minutes after a meal can help your body use insulin properly. But no amount of walking can compensate for the role a well-balanced diet plays.
“One of the strategies we teach is the plate method,” Kristie says, “which guides composing a meal with a good balance of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, healthy fats, and protein.”
Although lifestyle choices help manage type 2 diabetes, insulin injections may become necessary as the disease progresses.
“As your body works hard to control blood sugar over the years,” Kristie explains, “the pancreas can become tired and lose its ability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin.”