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     Volume 4 Issue 55 | July 22, 2005 |

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Are you a Diabetic?

Diabetes is a problem with the body's fuel system. It is caused by lack of insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas (an organ that secretes enzymes needed for digestion) that is essential for getting energy from food. There are two kinds of diabetes:
*In type 1 diabetes, which usually starts in children, the body stops making insulin completely.
*In type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, the body still makes some insulin, but cannot use it properly.
Most adults with diabetes have type 2; in fact, type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 percent of all diabetes cases.

How Insulin Works
Food is digested in the stomach and intestines, and carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, or glucose. Glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream, and blood glucose levels rise. This rise in blood sugar normally signals special cells in the pancreas, called beta cells, to release the right amount of insulin.

Insulin allows glucose and other nutrients (such as amino acids from proteins) to enter muscle cells. There, they can be stored for later or burned for energy.

When the body has a problem making insulin or the cells do not respond to insulin in the right way, diabetes results

Diabetes in adults may start slowly. In fact, millions of people don't even know they have it. They may just feel very tired at first, then later may have these symptoms:
*Urinating more than usual, as the body tries to get rid of the extra sugar in the blood
*Feeling unusually thirsty, because the body needs to replace the lost fluid
*Blurred vision
*Feeling hungry while losing weight
*Frequent infections
*Skin sores that won't heal

It's important to remember that diabetes symptoms may not be the same for everyone:
*The symptoms of type 2 diabetes may come on gradually.
*Some people may have no symptoms at all.
*Many people have type 2 diabetes and don't know it.
Untreated diabetes can cause serious health problems, such as blindness, heart and blood vessel damage, and permanent nerve damage. Seeing your doctor regularly for checkups and a discussion of your risk for diabetes is key to staying healthy.

Who Gets Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes - the type that affects adults - affects all types of people. However, there are factors that can put you at higher risk for developing the condition:
*Being overweight (body-mass index of 25+)
*Carrying fat around the waist and stomach
*Being sedentary
*Being more than 45 years old (being over 65 increases risk even further)
*Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
*Having gestational diabetes or having a baby that weighed 9 lbs or more
*Having a low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level (less than 35)
*Having a high triglyceride level (250 or above)
*Having high blood pressure (140/90 mm/Hg or higher)
Type 2 diabetes used to be quite rare before middle age, but now affects more and more young people who are overweight. Being overweight, even as a child or teenager, is a significant risk factor for developing diabetes as an adult.

About Impaired Glucose Tolerance
A condition called impaired glucose tolerance, a state between "normal" and "diabetes," could indicate that a person may get diabetes later. Impaired glucose tolerance also may put people at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

Impaired glucose tolerance shows up on tests as a slightly elevated blood sugar level that is not high enough to be called diabetes. A doctor can check for this condition using either an oral test or a blood test.

It is estimated that 20 million people in the U.S. have impaired glucose tolerance, including many children. Finding out about impaired glucose tolerance early might allow a person to make healthy lifestyle changes that will help them avoid getting diabetes or having other health problems later in life.

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