In the United States alone, approximately 20,000,000 individuals suffer from diabetes. The latter is typically a lifelong disorder that can be treated but not cured. The condition is characterized by insulin deficiency or the decreased ability of the body to properly use insulin. There are two forms of the disorder: Type I diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes, which usually strikes before age 12, and type II diabetes, which is referred to as adult onset diabetes and typically occurs in those over age 45. However, in recent years, the average age of adult onset diabetes appears to be lowering, and adults in their late 20s and 30s are sometimes diagnosed with this disorder. Treatments may include lifestyle changes, medication, adhering to a diabetic diet, and in many cases a combination of all three.
Even though a substantial number of diabetes cases are regarded as idiopathic, meaning the disease cannot be traced to anything specific, there are certain factors that place a person at a higher than average risk for the disorder.
Obesity and Heart Disease
Those who are obese or who suffer from cardiovascular disorders are at a much higher risk of developing adult onset diabetes. However, there does not appear to be any link to dietary or lifestyle habits and juvenile diabetes, the latter of which is simply caused by a malfunctioning pancreas. Medical researchers state that those who are obese can often prevent adult onset diabetes by reaching an appropriate weight and avoiding a high starch, high sugar diet.
Anyone with a history of heart disease should be regularly screened for diabetes. This is because the presence of diabetes in heart patients almost doubles the risk of a stroke or heart attack. It is recommended that heart patients over age 40 have fasting blood sugar tests once every six months.
Those who have a family history of the disorder are born with a higher than average risk of developing either type I or type II diabetes. Type II can surface in families where the history was primarily juvenile diabetes, and this also works the other way around.
Vitamin D Deficiency
The most recent discovery concerning diabetes is that low vitamin D levels can significantly increase the risk of developing the disorder. This has caused substantial controversy regarding the excessive use of sunscreen and lifestyles where there is no exposure to natural sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is now one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the US, and this is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Unfortunately, numerous individuals think using supplements is the solution, but many people do not absorb vitamin D this way and require sunlight to maintain proper levels. Many health experts now recommend at least 20 minutes of exposure to natural sunlight each day. It remains to be seen if researchers will eventually offer practical advice on how to prevent skin cancer without creating a harmful vitamin D deficiency.
Symptoms of both types of diabetes include the following:
- Frequent urination and unusual thirst
- Slow to heal cuts and scratches
- Frequent infections
- Extreme fatigue and irritability
- Unusual weight loss
- Abnormal hunger
Anyone suffering from this disorder should follow the diabetic diet prescribed by his or her doctor. Those experiencing diabetic symptoms should immediately make an appointment with a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and to ensure the best possible treatment plan is followed.