According to American Diabetes Association data from 2015, nearly 30 million Americans are living with diabetes – that’s more than 9% of the total population. About 28% of those who are diabetic haven’t been diagnosed, and 1.7 million Americans 20 years old and over are newly diagnosed EVERY YEAR. How many are living with pre-diabetes you ask? 86 million within the United States.
If these facts don’t paint a picture of the crisis, I’m not sure what will – but there is hope. Few people understand that type 2 diabetes is preventable and even reversible! It’s a statement worth repeating: Type 2 diabetes, a deadly, destructive disease that affects millions of Americans, is reversible with an improved diet and other lifestyle changes.
While playing on hubbub, you may have picked up on one of our core values – “know your numbers”. Think about it in terms of type 2 diabetes. Would 86 million Americans really be pre-diabetic if they knew their own blood test numbers as well as the potentially deadly effects of elevated blood glucose levels?
More importantly, do you know if you’re pre-diabetic or have risk factors to become diabetic?
Having higher than normal blood glucose levels is a sign of insulin resistance and a key indicator for pre-diabetes. Insulin is the hormone that moves glucose (or blood sugar) from your blood to your cells to be used for energy. Insulin resistance is when your body can’t make enough insulin to move sugar from your blood into your cells, or when the insulin your body is making is not working effectively. The result is chronically elevated blood sugar or hyperglycemia.
As we learned in an earlier blog post, sugar floating in our blood can create lesions in our blood vessels. Sugar also stimulates a pro-inflammatory immune response in your body. Yup, you read that right. Your immune cells see sugar as toxic and send out signals to other immune cells to activate them and start working against the toxin – this process thereby creates inflammation. Acute inflammation, or your body’s response against a pathogen or virus, is good, but chronic inflammation is not good for many reasons.
Not only does sugar cause destruction in your blood vessels, but hyperglycemia (remember – elevated blood sugar levels or pre-diabetes) can lead to a sleuth of ugly health conditions.
• Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of premature death for people with diabetes. Hyperglycemia creates lesions in our blood vessels, leading to thick plaques caused by the accumulation of substances used by the body to heal lesions. These plaques and the decreased flexibility of blood vessels cause increased blood pressure and significantly elevated risk of blood clot formations … and thus heart attacks.
• Nephropathy (kidney failure) occurs in up to 40% of people with diabetes because hyperglycemia actually changes the structure of blood vessels in the filtering portion of your kidney reducing the filtration effectiveness and causing kidney damage.
• Neuropathy (nerve damage) occurs due to the accumulation of abnormal substances like sorbitol and glycated proteins (normal proteins that now have sugar stuck to them) resulting in cell damage that disrupts normal nerve pathways.
• Cataracts and retina damage leading to blindness likely occurs because excess sugar in the blood can cause changes in the blood vessel structure and cell damage in the eye.
Patients with hyperglycemia can also have bone and joint problems, chronic skin infections, teeth and gum infections, excessive thirst and hunger, and other endocrine disorders including thyroid problems. You get the picture. And it's not a pretty one!
In our next blog post you’ll learn about the causes of hyperglycemia, how to better know your numbers, and lifestyle changes you can make to prevent and/or reverse type 2 diabetes!