November is American Diabetes Month and I want to take this opportunity to have a chat about diabetes, risks, resources, etc. Within my family, my grandfather had diabetes and through his journey with it, I learned a lot about it. And now, as an adult, my doctor and I have found that I am at a higher risk of developing diabetes as I get older not only because of my family history, but also because I have what is called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Individuals with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing diabetes in their lifetime. As a result, my doctor orders regular labs to be done to monitor my health and stay on top of preventing it.
But enough about me, let's talk about diabetes.
Did you know that there are more than just two types of diabetes?
Did you know that it's possible for people with type 2 diabetes to be cured of diabetes?
Did you know that type 1 diabetes is rare and the cause of it is unknown?
Let's break this down a bit. While typically people generally refer to it simply as "diabetes," there are multiple types of diabetes. There is type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and I'll also include prediabetes even though it isn't technically diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is not overly common. While there isn't a perfectly clear explanation as to what leads a person to wind up with type 1 diabetes, scientists have found different patterns on how this is passed along. For example, type 1 diabetes is more common in colder climates than in warmer climates. It is also less common for those who were breastfed and waited for a longer time to start eating solid foods.
The genetic makeup of the individual's parents can also be a contributing factor. For a father with type 1 diabetes, the likelihood of him passing it on to his child is 1 in 17. For women, it's different. If she has type 1 diabetes, it varies. If she has the baby before she is 25 years old, the chances are 1 in 25. But after she is 25, the chances of it being passed on changes to 1 in 100. Another thing to note is that while it is something that there is no cure for, it is often something that can take time to develop in an individual.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreatic cells that produce insulin to regulate blood sugar. By knowing this about it, scientists are working to look at the genetics of individuals with type 1 diabetes. By looking for patterns in those that have type 1 diabetes, it may help to gain an understanding and help see if someone would in time develop diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes on the other hand is far more common. Rather than being an autoimmune disease, type 2 diabetes is more linked with diet and lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is where your body does not react appropriately to the insulin that your pancreas produces. Instead of regulating your body's blood sugar like it is intended to do, your body builds up a resistance to it.
As I mentioned before, it is possible to be cured of type 2 diabetes. While not everyone is cured, it is a possibility. The key factors in overcoming type 2 diabetes revolve around maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, and weight loss. Type 2 diabetes can also be caused either from genetics or from your own personal lifestyle or personal health conditions.
Before getting into gestational diabetes, I want to take a minute to talk about prediabetes. When getting blood work done to check glucose levels, there is a range between maintaining a healthy glucose level and being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This range is called prediabetic. It only has to do with type 2 diabetes. If someone has prediabetes, they are not necessarily destined to become a type 2 diabetic. With healthy diet and exercise, an individual can turn their prediabetes around and prevent themselves from becoming diabetic altogether.
And now on to gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is when a woman becomes diabetic while she is pregnant with a baby. Roughly 10% of pregnant women get gestational diabetes, so it's not terribly uncommon. However, it still is something that needs to be taken seriously.
Just as type 2 diabetes can be managed and maintained, gestational diabetes can also be kept at bay. There are also a variety of ways to handle it and should be discussed with your doctor on how to best manage it. Some are able to keep things under control with diet and exercise. Others may need the help of insulin or other medications.
Regardless of how it is done, it is important to manage gestational diabetes. Having gestational diabetes does not just impact the mother, but also the baby. If it is not managed, the baby could be born early, not get enough blood sugar, or even become a type 2 diabetic later in life. In addition, if it goes untreated this can become very dangerous to both the mother and the child. Left without treatment, the woman could be diagnosed with preeclampsia which can be very dangerous and in worst case scenario could be fatal to the mother and/or the baby. So it is very important for women who are pregnant to be tested for gestational diabetes and properly manage it for the safety of themselves and their child.
The good news is that there are resources out there for people with diabetes. Of course, their primary care physician would be a great person to contact. But there are also resources such as the American Diabetes Association as well as Livongo which is a part of Teladoc. Diabetes is something that is very complex, but ultimately not that uncommon. And thankfully there are more and more resources that become available to help individuals with diabetes as well as their families to manage their diabetes.
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