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Health Articles
Dodging Diabetes: What You Need To Know
(published in Humana Active Outlook)
By Heather Larson


At this time as many as 24 million Americans have diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention predicts that by 2050, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. could get the disease.


It takes a toll on your body. The sugar and glucose in your blood pulls water out of your body and it all ends up in your urine. You get dehydrated, feel thirsty and may get dizzy. High blood sugar makes your vision blurry. It zaps your energy. Because you don't process glucose, you feel hungry all the time. You don't sleep well. You just don't feel well.

Besides the physical problems, you don't get enough blood flow to your brain. Recent studies show there may be a link between diabetes and Alzheimer's or other types of dementia, says Albert Tzeel, M.D., medical director at Humana.

In simple terms, diabetes means the body has trouble dealing with sugar. This can result in one of two types of diabetes.

Dr. Tzeel defines type I as what used to be called juvenile-onset diabetes. It was thought only someone under 25 years of age could get it. Now the age limit has been raised to 40. People with type I have antibodies that destroy the beta cell that makes insulin. So they must take shots of insulin in order to live. From 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have this type.

Those with type 2 diabetes make insulin on their own, but their body doesn't respond to it like it should. These people need to make vital lifestyle changes or they will end up having to take insulin. This is the most common type. Ninety to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2.

Metabolic syndrome has to do with your metabolism and insulin resistance. It is a cluster of problems that include high blood pressure, high insulin levels, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. When you have at least three of these problems, you're at an increased risk for getting diabetes.

Dr. Tzeel says people get diabetes because of their genetics and their lifestyle. But, lifestyle issues play the biggest part, especially in type 2 diabetes.

"Taking in too many calories and not keeping fit sets folks up to have either metabolic syndrome and/or move to diabetes," says Dr. Tzeel.


"Someone with diabetes is at risk for all sorts of problems," says Dr. Tzeel. "Insulin is really a double-edged sword because it stimulates the production of fat cells. That makes you gain weight. That's why you should do what your doctor tells you to do. He knows best about your medication, managing your weight, and what exercises might help."

  • Your brain is at risk for stroke when blood vessels become damaged or blocked.
  • Diabetes causes blindness and it puts you at risk for other eye problems like retinal detachment and diabetic nerve damage.
  • High blood sugar can make it more likely for your gums to become infected.
  • You are at more risk for heart attacks because the blood vessels going to your heart become narrow or are blocked by fatty deposits.
  • Diabetes can cause you kidney problems and it is the No. 1 reason people end up on dialysis machines.
  • With type 2 diabetes, you could have sexual problems, which occur in both men and women.
  • You have a greater risk for a stroke because of the decreased blood flow to your legs.
  • You are at risk for a number of common foot problems, including foot and toenail fungus, calluses, corns, blisters, bunions, and foot ulcers.
  • Your general immune system suffers, putting you at a greater risk of getting ill because it's harder to fight off disease.

Screening Saved My Life
After some routine screenings, 77-year-old Peggy got a shocking call from her doctor's office.

"I was told I should see a doctor who specializes in blood disorders," says Peggy.

She made the appointment and at that first visit the specialist said he thought she had leukemia. He wanted to test her bone marrow to be certain.

"By the next afternoon, the test had been done and I knew I had acute myeloid leukemia (abnormal white blood cells accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells) - the worst kind. It's incurable," says Peggy. "He scheduled my chemotherapy and told me to get my affairs in order."

Peggy said that didn't bother her much. She did as she was told, which also meant staying home so as not to risk the chance of infection. Even so, she became very ill. During her hospital stay for her illness, her bone marrow was tested again.

"The test showed I was in remission from the cancer," says Peggy. "I'm still in remission now and I think I will defeat this cancer."

Peggy believes regular screenings and her doctors saved her life. She urges readers not to take screenings for granted.


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