by Gregory Field
Sugar is a nutrient that is transported through our blood stream to fuel the activities of the muscles and organs. The body produces the hormone insulin in the pancreas to allow the transfer of the sugar glucose from the blood to the cells. Diabetes is when this transfer of glucose from the blood to the cells does not occur.
Sometimes the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, or stops altogether--this is Diabetes Type I, and can be treated by adding insulin to the blood stream through injections. But 95% of diabetes cases are Non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type II): the pancreas produces insulin, but it is not used effectively.
The body cannot function normally with the increased blood sugar, and complications occur in all the body organs. Tiny blood vessels get damaged: oxygen can't go through the blood vessel walls, and general circulation decreases. Nerve endings are damaged and with less nerve sensation, minor cuts and injuries go unnoticed--and untreated. Infections take hold and require more vigorous treatment of antibiotics.
The longer a person goes with out knowing they are diabetic the longer their organs are compromised. Symptoms for diabetes Type II can be mild at first, and often go undetected for a long time. Early signs include:
* frequent urination,
* excessive thirst,
* extreme hunger,
* dramatic weight loss,
* weakness and fatigue,
* nausea and vomiting,
* recurring hard to heal skin, gum, or bladder infections,
* blurred vision,
* tingling or numbness in legs, feet or fingers,
* slow healing cuts (especially on the feet)
Diabetes can cause long term health problems: It can contribute to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and hypertension. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults. It causes damage to the blood vessels in the retina to over 90% of the people who have diabetes over 15 years. Detectable loss of nerve function occurs in 40% of all persons with diabetes, and in 90% of persons with diabetes for 25 years. This can lead to other complications including stomach, urine and bladder problems, infections, gangrene and amputation of limbs.
Women with diabetes have five times more complications in pregnancy, and three times greater frequency of birth defects. Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, have about a 50% chance of developing diabetes later in life.
Living with diabetes
There is hope for people with diabetes in whatever stage, but it usually comes with a change in lifestyle for the individual and the entire family. Nutrition plays a major role in controlling diabetes. The general principles are:
* Increase intake of fiber, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, beans and peas. Complex carbohydrates should provide 50% or more of the calories in a persons diet.
* Decrease use of sources of saturated fat, animal products, and manufactured foods such as pastries, and ice cream. Recommended total intake of fat is 30% but less will get more benefits.
* Avoid high sugar foods such as soft drinks.
Persons with diabetes will also benefit from exercise, massage, and a reduction in stress.
Individuals with diabetes can get information and support through the Castle Medical Center. The "Diabetes in Real Life" program gives the basics of how to live well with diabetes. Topics include nutrition and meal planning, home blood sugar testing, dealing with sick days and more. A Windward Diabetes Support Group meets in Kailua on the last Wednesday evening of the month. Castle Medical Center also offers a Diabetes Resource Library in Kaneohe and highly informative videotapes that can be checked out by the general public. For more information call Rosalind Philips at the Castle Medical Center Health Promotions office at 235-8737.
The Castle Medical Center Health Van will conduct free diabetes screening and testing at the Waimanalo Library on August 14, from 5:30 to 7 pm, just prior to the Neighborhood Board meeting. Free screening will also be performed August 15, from 9 to 11 am, at Castle Professional Center, 46-001 Kamehameha Highway in Kaneohe. Call 235-8737 for details.