senior citizen getting diabetes care from healthcare professional

Diabetes Causes and Methods of Prevention

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.  Type 1 diabetes is an abnormal response to a normal body part (also called an autoimmune disease), while Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body starts resisting the insulin produced by the pancreas.  Some people also talk about Gestational diabetes, which happens when women experience high blood sugar during pregnancy, but then goes back to normal after the pregnancy.

Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugars are in the higher-than-normal range but don’t stay high long enough to be classified as Type 2 diabetes.  Everyone wants to know the causes and prevention of diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

At present, there are 1.6 million Americans who have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, but it is anticipated that within the next 25 years, the total number will be close to 5 million. Each year in the USA about 64,000 individuals are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and the majority of them are under the age of 20.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas, the organ that manufactures insulin, is damaged. Why and how the damage occurs is not known. When the pancreas is damaged, it fails to make insulin, and consequently Type 1 diabetes results.

The Cause

To date, the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes remains unknown, but a few things have been established which include the following:

  1. Genetic: It is well known that Type 1 diabetes runs in families. If the parents (one or both) have Type 1 diabetes, some of the children may also develop the disorder.
  2. Infection: It is believed that, in some children, a prior viral infection may occur which somehow alters the surface cells of the pancreas. This alteration causes the body’s own immune system to attack and destroy the pancreas. Several types of infections have been shown to result in diabetes, but this is not a universal feature seen in all patients.
  3. In most cases of Type 1 diabetes, the cause remains unknown.  About 10 percent of the people who have diabetes have Type 1.

Type 2 Diabetes

The number of people with Type 2 diabetes in the United States is growing rapidly. As of 2021, there are at least 26 million Americans who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, but at the same, there are also another 79 million with prediabetes, many of which will eventually develop full-blown Type 2 diabetes if preventive steps are not taken.

The Cause

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, there are many causes of Type 2 diabetes, which include the following:

  1. Lifestyle:

It has now been established that Type 2 diabetes is most common in people who are not physically active. Leading a sedentary lifestyle is a common risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.

  1. Diet:

Eating a diet that is high in calories and consists of fast foods or processed foods is also a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Most fast foods contain unhealthy fats, like saturated oils, high levels of sugar, and tend to be more meat-based, all of which increase the number of calories.

  1. Family History:

If one member in the family has Type 2 diabetes, others may also be at risk for developing the disorder. 

  1. Obesity:

Perhaps one of the biggest risk factors for Type 2 diabetes is obesity. Close to 40% of the U.S. population is obese, and a significant number of them have diabetes. As the weight gain increases, so does the risk of developing diabetes.

In children, obesity is now the number one cause of Type 2 diabetes. The extra body weight makes the cells in the body resistant to insulin, and, therefore, the blood sugar is not broken down or taken up by the tissues.

  1. Lack of Exercise:

Individuals who do not exercise tend to gain weight and will eventually develop Type 2 diabetes. 

  1. High Blood Pressure:

Type 2 diabetes is more likely to occur if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and triglycerides. 

  1. Ethnicity:

Type 2 diabetes is also more likely to occur in certain ethnic groups, like African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives.

  1. Medications:

The use of certain medications, like antipsychotics, can increase your blood sugar levels. You will need to consult with a nutritionist on how to manage the glucose levels and perform exercise regularly to burn off the sugars.

Gestational Diabetes

During pregnancy, there are numerous hormonal changes. The placenta secretes several hormones to help with the growth of the fetus, but, at the same time, in some women, these hormones will make the body cells very resistant to the effects of insulin. The eventual result is high levels of blood sugar. Gestational diabetes tends to be most common in women who gain too much weight during pregnancy. Other risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

  • Age over 25
  • If you had gestational diabetes in a prior pregnancy
  • Have a family history of Type 2 diabetes
  • Have polycystic ovarian disease

Once the pregnancy is over, the condition will most likely resolve, but there is also a risk that some of these women will go on to develop Type 2 diabetes in the future.

Pre-Diabetes 

Blood sugars can sometimes register above the normal range (normal blood sugars are said to be between 70 and 125; some say between 70 and 115).  When blood sugars go above 125, this is often called Pre-Diabetes.  Blood sugars, however, don’t remain in a high range and, therefore, are not considered Type 2 diabetes.  People consider this, however, to be a precursor to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. 

Methods of Prevention

Is it possible to prevent diabetes?  What can you do to prevent diabetes?  You cannot prevent Type 1 diabetes, but you may very well be able to prevent Type 2 diabetes if you follow the tips below.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented because no one fully understands its cause yet.  Doctors don’t understand why a person’s immune system would attack and destroy its own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Type 2 Diabetes

For the most part, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by making drastic changes to lifestyle, which includes the following:

  1. Exercise Regularly

Any exercise is better than no exercise. You should exercise at least 4-5 times a week, and the type of exercise you perform is not relevant. For example, you can swim, bicycle, hike, or use a stationary bike. Even walking 45-60 minutes every day can help reduce your body weight and burn up the excess calories. 

  1. Watch Your Diet

Avoid fast foods and processed foods. Lower the intake of sugars and saturated fats. Instead, eat a plant-based diet and limit the calorie intake to less than 2,000 calories per day. At the same time, eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Work with a dietitian or a diabetic care nurse to help set up a menu plan.

  1. Eat Small Portions and Use a Smaller Plate

The key is to eat less. Or you can eat 5-6 small meals a day to avoid hunger pangs.

  1. Do Not Smoke 

Nicotine has no health benefits. All nicotine does is worsen your diabetes and high blood pressure.

  1. Limit the Intake of Alcohol

Most people do not realize that alcohol adds calories. A regular glass of beer will easily add 150 calories. Some people advocate wine to decrease bad cholesterol, but this beverage can also damage your liver. Instead, avoid alcohol and walk for an extra 30 minutes each day.  The benefits of exercise far outweigh the consumption of an alcoholic beverage.

For your health, you need to know the causes and prevention of diabetes.  If you have diabetes, the best recommendation is to follow up with a healthcare professional. It is important to maintain the blood sugar levels within normal levels if you want to avoid the devastating complications of the disease.  Cano Health can help make a difference in your life.  They specialize in care for seniors.  Call them today at 1.855.975.5119.