Sunday, October 28, 2007

Diabetes, Yes I Have It Too

My Introduction to Diabetes

I was personally introduced to diabetes within the past year.

Diabetes does run on my fathers side of the family, but being a retired Senior citizen, I never thought I would be a diabetic at my age.

Well surprise! On a routine visit to the doctors office, that was the News - Type 1 Diabetic. Upon the diagnosis, I realized I had become another statistic - another African American with diabetes.

We have an extremely good health care system here in Northwest Indiana, and I went to several diabetes classes at Porter Memorial Hospital learned quite a bit about the disease, healthy diets and how to cope with diabetes.

I am now aware that I need to eat three times a day, and of course change quite a few bad eating habits. Also I have to pass on the evening snacks while watching TV - unless my sugar for some reason is too low. Basically I have done quite well, and my sugar levels are consistently where they should be, but I also realize that I cannot be complacent on taking my medication, getting off my diet, or slacking up on exercise.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to reach and network with people who are diabetic, and most importantly to reach those who may have diabetes, but have never been tested.

For those who have not been tested, just take the time and do it. Had I not gone to the doctor, I don't even want to think of the consequences to my health and lifestyle. And being a man, I will be the first to say we are known not to take care of health issues, and ignore symptoms until the last minute. Most of us really hate going to the doctor, or even admitting anything is wrong.

African Americans
in particular have a tendency to not seek medical help soon enough, and in some cases lack of insurance and financial concerns overide good health care. This is disturbing because from the statistics, we are the ones that seem to have a higher incidence of diabetes, along with high blood pressure and heart disease. In each case, seeking medical attention is the first step in controlling any disease. There are many health fairs and centers that provide testing free of charge, so please just get a test to be safe.

Just about everyone has heard about diabetes, but very few people really know enough about the symptoms, possible causes and treatment.

So, what exactly is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease characterized by chronic high levels of glucose in the blood. Excess glucose can have a number of ill effects, including poor cut healing or kidney damage, even coma. At one time this disease could have been a death sentence for many, but the advancement of monitoring and insulin delivery methods today; it is just little more than another daily routine task to perform.

Though the underlying causes are not fully understood, diabetes results from either too little insulin being produced, or its ineffective use of it by the body. I have Type 1 diabetes - which is genetic, affects mostly younger people, and can generally be treated with insulin pills.

In Type 2, the cells may resist insulin's action, once again leaving too much glucose in the blood. Also about 3% of pregnant women develop what is called gestational diabetes, but it usually goes away after giving birth. Most medical professionals agree that diabetes comes from a genetic predisposition, along with other environmental or lifestyle factors.

In all cases, the symptoms are usually roughly the same: excessively frequent urination, unquenchable thirst, sometimes accompanied by dizziness or stomach pains. Naturally, these common symptoms can have a number of causes.

Testing for diabetes is simple and relatively painless, only requiring a small blood sample. Blood glucose level is measured, with normal running around 99 mg/dL, while diabetics have a level of 126 mg/dL or above. It may require more than one test to confirm the disease.

Once confirmed, regular blood glucose monitoring is a must. Fortunately, today there are many convenient ways to do that.

Testing devices the size of a cell phone are common. A small sample of blood is smeared on a strip fed into the instrument, which delivers a number within seconds. Some recent devices measure glucose level through the skin using an infrared beam.

Treatments are equally easy for most diabetics
. In some cases careful diet and appropriate exercise may be enough to keep the right glucose-insulin balance. In the usual case, insulin delivery is called for. But that too is much easier than in generations past.

Small insulin-containing pens can deliver the exact right dose painlessly. Newer oral inhalers are on the market that has met with success.

Though no one wants to have to deal with diabetes, managing the disease is now easier than ever. The possible long term complications of untreated diabetes remain what they always were. By keeping them in check with simple techniques, most diabetics can enjoy an active fulfilling life just as anyone else.

Time permits going more into detail about the symptoms of diabetes - so I will go into detail about this in the next posting.

Charles Thompkins
Diabetic, Senior and Black Blog

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