What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic lifelong condition that affects how your food is converted to energy. The carbohydrates in the food we eat are converted into sugar by our bodies and released in our bloodstream. The body then signals the pancreas to produce insulin to let the body’s cells to use the sugar as energy.

With diabetes, the body is either not able to produce insulin or cannot utilise the sugar due to insulin-resistance of the cells. The excess sugar over time can cause chronic issues such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney problems.

Types of diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce any insulin, approximately 5 -10 % of diabetes patients are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, injectable insulin is required every day for survival. Currently there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes and injecting insulin is the only treatment method.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is when the body does not produce enough insulin or doesn’t process the sugars due to insulin resistance in our body causing a rise in the blood sugar levels. Usually 90-95% of people have Type 2 diabetes. Blood sugar levels can be maintained with healthy lifestyle changes such as regular exercising, weight loss and healthy eating.

Gestational diabetes – this occurs during pregnancy in expectant mothers.


This is a condition which ails 1 in every 3rd American which account for almost 88 million adults. Prediabetes is a condition where your sugar levels are higher than usual but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The diabetes rate in America

According to American Diabetes Association, in 2018 almost 34.2 million Americans or 10.55% of the population had diabetes. Almost 1.6 million American have Type 2 diabetes which included about 187,000 children and adolescents. It is estimated that out of the 34.2 million adults with diabetes, 26.8 million are diagnosed, and 7.3 million are undiagnosed.

Almost 26.8%, or 14.3 million seniors above the age of 65 have diabetes and 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2017.

The economic costs

The lives lost and number of people affected by diabetes in the United States of America increases every day. However, the economic costs of the high prevalence of diabetes is in billions. It was estimated that the total cost of diabetes was 327 billion US dollars in 2017 out of which $237 billion were direct medical costs and $90 billion was lost in productivity.

Signs and Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Almost 8 million of Americans aren’t diagnosed with diabetes because the symptoms are so mild, we don’t tend to notice them which is why it is essential to get our blood sugar levels checked on a regular basis. As diabetes can lead to further complications as we grow older, thus early diagnosis is key to a healthy and full life.

Some of the most common symptoms include being very thirsty constantly and needing to urinate frequently. Type 2 diabetes is also associated with vision loss thus you might experience blurry vision from time to time. The blood sugar in our body influences our mental state and we can feel constantly irritated, angry, and cranky.

Constant fatigue is another prominent symptom of Type 2 diabetes and feeling hungry. Unexplained weight loss and numbness of hands or feet is a noticeable symptom of Type 2 diabetes. Another significant symptom is frequent infections meaning when your immune system is weakened and you keep getting infections, wounds tend to not heal, and yeast infection keep recurring.

Leading cause of diabetes

One of the leading cause for diabetes is genetics. It is said DNA affects how our body makes and utilises insulin. Being overweight or obese can lead to Type 2 diabetes as it becomes harder and harder for the body to maintain sugar levels. High blood pressure and cholesterol issues can also result in Type 2 diabetes.

Women who gave birth to heavy babies or were diagnosed by gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also linked with PCOS and depression in women.

Lack of exercise or leading a very sedentary lifestyle can cause diabetes. Smoking is also known to cause diabetes apart from lung diseases. Mental pressures and stress can also result in diabetes.

How can I reduce the risk of diabetes or control diabetes?

Diabetes is interlinked with our physical habits and mental state of mind. First and foremost is healthy eating, we need to reduce our intake of artificial sweeteners, processed food, carbonated drinks, and junk food. This needs to be replaced by fresh vegetables, fruits and incorporating more fiber in our diet. Portion control is vital in controlling diabetes, we should limit the intake of food items and make a habit of eating controlled portions.

Exercise or physical activity like biking, swimming, or running everyday for 30-60 minutes can not only make us feel better and keep us physically fit. It also reduces the incidence of disease like diabetes, heart disease etc. Be mindful you do not exert yourself too much and risk raising your heart rate to dangerous levels. Quit smoking: Not only does it reduce the chances of Type 2 diabetes, it also reduces the possibility of heart and lung disease.

How we feel directly effects our physical state; stress and depression are known to increase the risk to Type 2 diabetes. We need to take care of our mental health and make amends otherwise they can not only cause Type 2 diabetes, but there is also an increased risk of other chronic illnesses which are affected by our mental state.

If we make very simple yet effective changes to our lifestyle, we not only feel happier, active and stress free – it will also reduce the risk of diabetes.