What Is Diabetes And Can It Be Prevented?

More than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of 2015, 30.3 million Americans – 9.4 percent of the U.S. population – have diabetes. Another 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that if not treated, often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years. And the numbers are increasing every year with a projected increase of 54% between 2015-2030. Total annual medical and societal costs related to diabetes will increase 53% to more than $622 billion by 2030. Sadly, 13.7 million children and teens are now overweight or obese. This translates into an increase in diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in our youth.

More than 1 in 3 Americans are prediabetic and do not even know it. Prediabetes is defined as elevated blood sugars above normal, but not to the level to meet diabetes diagnostic criteria.

The first stage in type 2 diabetes is typically insulin resistance. Acanthosis nigricans (a skin condition characterized by areas of dark, velvety discoloration most often affecting armpits, groin and neck), hypertension (high blood pressure), elevated cholesterol panel, and polycystic ovarian syndrome are all signs of insulin resistance.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder and affects young children to young adults and has a different mechanism for causing illness. 

Susan Julian, NP, Julian Healthcare, explains it this way: 

Insulin receptors are scattered throughout the body on organs and muscles. Think of these as key holes. Insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas, travels through blood vessels to reach these key holes. Insulin is the key and must plug into a receptor to unlock it so glucose (sugar) can get into the cells. Glucose is our body’s fuel source. 

In prediabetes, some of these receptors go away. So, now there is excess insulin in the vessels looking for a place to plug in, but there is more insulin than receptors. Thus, insulin levels begin to rise. This can go on for a while… maybe even a few years and the blood sugar levels can remain in the normal range. Then the body reaches a tipping point and the blood sugars also start to elevate and type 2 diabetes is diagnosed.

The serious problem in diabetes and prediabetes is that the elevated insulin & glucose cause inflammation to the inner lining of arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood). This inflammation causes narrowing of the arteries so they cannot supply adequate oxygen and nutrients. The consequences are blindness, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and poor circulation in limbs requiring amputations.

Factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes and prediabetes include being overweight and sedentary, eating a diet high in sugars/flours/processed food and drink, having a close family member with diabetes, and being chronically stressed. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented and reversed by losing even 5-10% body weight, increasing activity, eating whole foods, eating a more plant-based diet while avoiding processed sugars, getting great sleep, and managing stress.

At Julian Healthcare, people with risk factors for diabetes or signs of insulin resistance are tested by undergoing simple blood tests. 

“It is my opinion, based on research data, that anyone at risk, in addition to testing blood sugar also have an insulin level checked, which is not the traditional medicine norm,” noted Julian. 

“Then a personalized treatment plan is discussed to help the patient reverse diabetes or prediabetes.”

A treatment plan includes lifestyle changes as mentioned above. It can also include nutritional supplements known to help the body manage insulin and glucose better. When appropriate, stress management, sleep, and emotional/spiritual healing are also recommended. When necessary, medication may be used as well. 

“I have had many patients who are motivated to live their best life make changes that help them meet their health goals,” Julian shared.

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