Understanding Diabetes: The Basics

By Brooke Cancilliari

After receiving my diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, I sank into the chair while half-listening to other medical jargon my doctor used to describe the rest of my blood work. Like many people who have been diagnosed with diabetes–I was scared. What would I have to change about my lifestyle? Would I have to prick my finger? Why didn’t I see this coming sooner?

Dr. Martha Genig was sympathetic and reassured me that with Type 2 diabetes, I wouldn’t have to prick my finger or wear an insulin pump. “It’s just a lifestyle change,” she said. “You just have to start exercising and eating better.” She prescribed me the infamous Metformin, swearing that it has helped so many before me manage the disease.

It was difficult to tell my family and friends about it—most of them didn’t understand the condition and jumped to conclusions regarding what I could and couldn’t eat. The lifestyle difference became apparent when my friends indulged in sweet chocolates and boxes of the cheesiest, greasiest pizza—things I used to eat beforehand.

One of my friends wanted to know how she could better understand Type 2 diabetes and how it differed from Type 1 diabetes. The difference is actually pretty basic. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes isn’t caused by eating too much sugar. Surprising, right?

Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that can trigger it such as unexplained weight loss, increased thirst and appetite, and frequent infections. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body isn’t producing insulin. Insulin is necessary for the sugar-to-energy conversion on a daily basis. Without this function, the symptoms get worse over time if not treated. This strain is usually diagnosed early on in childhood.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease, as many Americans (including myself) have been diagnosed and many are unaware that they’re high at risk. While symptoms are similar to those with Type 1 diabetes, there are a few extra things to look out for—extremely high blood sugar, slow-healing sores and cuts, itching of the skin (especially in the groin area), and recent weight gain (which was one of my problems, personally). Type 2 isn’t necessarily diagnosed until other health concerns have surfaced, hence why so many believe they don’t have it.

If you’re someone who has a friend or family member going through this disease, it shouldn’t scare you away. If anything, diabetics love and need the support that their friends and family can give them. The best that anyone can do is research and check out websites like Stop Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association to stay educated on the conditions and be aware of warning signs. These resources have articles such as myths about diabetes (diabetes isn’t contagious, so don’t worry about that) and tips on how to plan your meals.

Remember, no matter what type you may have, it’s not a death sentence—let it be your wake up call to a happier, healthier you!

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Categories: Your Nutrition

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