In both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the main problem is that there is a high level of blood glucose because the body is unable to utilize it. But what causes the blood sugars to be elevated in diabetes? What is the main cause of diabetes? Read on.
Type 1 Diabetes – No Insulin
In Type 1 diabetes, which starts in childhood, the fundamental causes of diabetes pertain to the fact that there is no insulin being produced in the body. This hormone is normally produced by the pancreas, a small organ in the abdomen. For some unknown reason in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to make insulin. The end result is that there is a lack of insulin, which causes marked elevations in blood glucose. But why the pancreas does not make insulin is not yet well understood.
Despite extensive research, several theories exist as to why the pancreas fails to make insulin. The most common theory is that the body’s own defense immune cells (autoantibodies) attack the pancreas because they recognize it as foreign. It is believed that an infection in childhood may lead to cellular changes in the pancreas, which is then attacked by the body’s white cells. Not all people with Type 1 diabetes have these so-called autoimmune antibodies. The bottom line is that in Type 1 diabetes, insulin is not produced by the pancreas.
Type 2 Diabetes – Insulin Resistance
In Type 2 diabetes, one of the causes of diabetes is that, while the pancreas does make insulin, the body does not respond to it like it should, and the glucose levels remain high in the blood. At this point, the pancreas makes even more insulin to lower the blood sugars, but eventually, the organ fails and wears out. The individual will then have too much glucose in the blood, a condition known as prediabetes.
In prediabetes, the levels of glucose are high but not high enough to make the diagnosis of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when insulin production increases, but there is resistance to insulin and the individual will present with signs and symptoms of diabetes. When blood sugars stay at elevated levels for too long, it can lead to several physical complications, including atherosclerosis, as well as causing your pancreas to fail.
What is the Main Cause of Diabetes? Know the Risk Factors
Several risk factors increase the risk of developing diabetes. They include the following:
- Genes: It is well known that certain genes increase the risk of diabetes. The genetic risk is not 100% but averages between 20-50%. In Type 1 diabetes, several genes have been identified, but that does not always mean that the individual with these genes will develop diabetes.
- Family history: A family history of diabetes is a strong risk factor for others in the family to develop diabetes. For example, if the father has diabetes, then there is a high risk that some of the children may also develop diabetes. They would be predisposed to developing the disease.
- Genetic disorders: People who are born with genetic disorders, such as hemochromatosis (excess iron in the body) and cystic fibrosis, can develop damage to the pancreas, which will eventually lead to diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: Generally speaking, a small number of women may develop diabetes during their pregnancy. Referred to as gestational diabetes, this condition occurs because the sex hormones secreted by the placenta interfere or block the body’s response to insulin. The problem is that gestational diabetes affects not only the mother’s health but also the baby’s health as well. Pregnant women at high risk for gestational diabetes can lower the risk by exercising regularly, reducing body weight, eating healthy foods, and sometimes even taking prescribed medications. By controlling the blood sugars, this can lead to the growth of a healthy infant and prevent difficulty during delivery. After delivery, the blood sugars usually return to normal. However, women who do develop gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Advancing age: As people age, there is a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The reason is that the pancreas may not function well as before. This risk starts to increase when a person reaches 50 years of age. However, if you are overweight, do not exercise, or eat an unhealthy diet, Type 2 diabetes may present much earlier.
- Obesity: Obesity is now known to be a common risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. The reason is that excess fat in the body causes insulin resistance. The good news is that by lowering body weight, the risk of developing diabetes also drastically drops.
- Unhealthy diet: An unhealthy diet is fast becoming a common cause of Type 2 diabetes. Diets that are high in simple sugars, fat, cholesterol, and rich in calories, also increase the resistance of the body to insulin. A regular diet of fast and processed foods is not healthy and will most likely eventually lead to Type 2 diabetes.
- Sedentary lifestyle: People who do not exercise are at higher risk for developing diabetes. Exercise is known to make the muscles respond more effectively to insulin. That is why aerobic exercises are regularly recommended by healthcare professionals.
- Hormonal causes: Some very rare hormonal conditions can also lead to Type 2 diabetes. Medical disorders, such as Cushing syndrome and hyperthyroidism, can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. The good news is that if these conditions are treated, diabetes can disappear.
- Medications: There are some medications, like antipsychotic drugs, that are known to cause Type 2 diabetes. These medications are known to increase body weight, hypercholesterolemia, and high blood sugar. Close monitoring of blood sugar levels is required while on these medications.
- Ethnicity: It has been well established that the risk of diabetes is increased for people with certain ethnic backgrounds, including the following:
- African Americans
- Native Americans
- Pacific islanders
- Hispanic Americans
Overall, Caucasians have the lowest risk of developing diabetes.
What is the main cause of diabetes? If you have been told you have diabetes, the best advice is to consult with a healthcare professional. The earlier you learn how to manage your blood sugar levels, the better the quality of life you may be able to have. Cano Health has many programs, all aimed at helping guide seniors to a better life with better health. Contact Cano Health today to learn more about one of their programs, including educational courses, nutrition courses, and Laughter Yoga.