About Your Heart

Conditions - Diabetes

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes (also called Diabetes Mellitus) is a disease in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high. Your pancreas--an organ in your body responsible for producing insulin--is defective in producing or adequately utilizing insulin…or both, which leads to elevated blood sugar levels.

Insulin is vital for converting sugars into fuel so your body can function properly. When these sugars are not turned into energy, your body responds by creating more glucose from stored fats. Over time, these sugars accumulate in the bloodstream. If the condition is left untreated, it can cause very serious complications, including heart and vascular disease, and kidney, eye and nerve damage.

The two main Types of Diabetes are:

  • Type I (also called juvenile Diabetes) which develops in children and young adults. In Type I Diabetes, the body does not produce enough or any insulin. Cells in the pancreas responsible for this function have been destroyed.
  • Type II (also called adult-onset Diabetes) is the most common form of Diabetes, affecting roughly 16 million Americans. In Type II Diabetes, the body cannot produce enough insulin, or the insulin produced is ignored by the body. This condition develops in usually older, overweight people.

There is no cure for Diabetes, but there are many treatments available for diabetics to lead long and healthy lives. It is important to follow your doctor's treatment plan precisely, as this can add many "quality" years to your life.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of Diabetes?
The warning signs of Diabetes, both Type I and Type II, are similar. The main difference is that Type I diabetics usually develop the condition much more quickly. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of Diabetes, because early prevention and treatment is the best way to avoid permanent complications.

If you have any of the symptoms below, contact your physician immediately:

  • Sweet, fruity breath (also called "acetone breath")
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive trips to the bathroom to urinate, especially at night
  • Blurred vision

How is Diabetes detected?
Diabetes is diagnosed by a blood test. Your doctor will order a lipid profile, which examines your cholesterol and your glucose levels. If your glucose levels are high, it is an indicator that you may have Diabetes. Diabetes can also be diagnosed by a simple urine test which shows the presence of glucose in the urine.

What are the treatment options for Diabetes?
The key is to keep your sugar levels within your target range by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and by using insulin injections. Your physician will determine your target range.

Type I diabetics must be treated with insulin injections because the body is unable to produce insulin on its own. Two to four insulin injections are required daily.

For all diabetics, prevention is a must. You must take every measure to change your lifestyle, which includes stopping smoking, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet (low in carbohydrates, fat and sugars), and maintaining a healthy weight, cholesterol level and blood pressure level. It is important that all people lead a healthy lifestyle. However, it is especially important if you are a diabetic. Why? Because all of these risk factors compound the severity of Diabetes.