Diabetes: The result of Our Choices
Diabetes is a major medical condition that affects many people throughout the world.
Today, Diabetes has become the seventh-leading cause of death. In the United States, an average of 69,000 Americans die of diabetes each year.
Diabetes can occur among all age groups and is distinguished by type. Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile-onset diabetes, usually happens in childhood or young adulthood.Type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, may occur in childhood, but usually happens in adulthood as a result of a poor lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is more common, prevalent in about 90 to 95 percent of the population that has diabetes.
Francois Berthiaume, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, said Type 2 diabetes has to do with obesity but other factors may also exist.
In the U.S., 25 to 30 percent of the population is obese. Of that population, around 10 percent exhibit diabetes, Berthiaume said.
Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. It is an autoimmune disease which destroys all the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin. If insulin cannot be produced, then blood sugar levels become extremely difficult to control.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Insulin is not immediately produced in Type 2 diabetes. The pancreatic cells release insulin eventually, but the effectiveness and progression of these cells becomes worse over time.
“In the early stages, the person will still be able to control their blood glucose, but cells become more refractory to the effect of insulin,” Berthiaume said. “Eventually tissues become too resistant to insulin, and will stop producing it.”
For later or advanced stages of Type 2 diabetes, diabetic individuals have to get insulin injections, he said.
Diabetes may cause other complications as well. It damages the microvasculature, the portion of the circulatory system which is composed of small vessels. This can lead to loss of eyesight because of improper blood flow in the eye and can lead to other extremities as well.
Changes in blood flow can also occur in the legs. Berthiaume specifically studies pressure sores or open wounds that occur on the foot because of diabetes.
“Once pressure sores or wounds develop in diabetic individuals, they don’t heal nearly as well,” he said. “We work on developing bandages that contain different compounds which will get the wounds to heal.”
Even though a poor environment exists for healing due to the lack of nutrients and oxygen, such research is showing progression in better defending effects of diabetes.
Right now, only very few technological advances exist which can help the effects of diabetes. Blood glucose monitors read the sugar levels in the body on timely intervals. Research in professional clinics mainly focuses on enhancing these monitors so an accurate reading of a diabetic individuals can be done.
As a result, this system can readily inject the right amount of insulin into the diabetic individual.
Diabetes, specifically Type 2, can be prevented through a change in lifestyle. In fact, exercising and maintaining healthy weight can prove effective towards reducing the effects of diabetes and eventually preventing it.
“Diabetes is a serious problem in the U.S. because of higher obesity rates,” said Jacob Migdail-Smith, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “I think the best solution would be to have healthier dining halls."
People tend to get diagnosed with more illnesses like diabetes where there is more access to unhealthy food, said Jamie Lee, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore.
Both students are well aware of the effect of diabetes because it runs in their family. It is evident that the best option to specifically prevent Type 2 diabetes is to work hard in changing a poor lifestyle.
“I think that people should try to limit their sugar intake, change their diet to a healthier one and get moving around! Exercise is key," Lee said.