Diabetes is a serious disease that affects the way your body works with the sugar glucose — and it’s harming more Americans than ever before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes over 29 million Americans as of 2014 — and that was up from 26 million in 2010. It looks like those numbers are slated to keep increasing as well.
For those who don’t have diabetes, there’s also the possibility that they’re still at risk of being prediabetic. This means their blood sugar levels are higher than average and steps must be taken to lower them. Between 15 and 30% of prediabetics will develop full-blown diabetes within five years, too.
The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
You’ve heard that you can prevent diabetes through a healthy lifestyle — but that’s only true for one type. WebMD explains most people have Type 2 diabetes, which develops over time when your cells don’t properly use insulin, the hormone that turns glucose into usable energy. This can cause sugar to build in your bloodstream, resulting in a wealth of health issues.
Your genetic makeup can determine whether you’ll develop Type 2 diabetes, but so can other factors. Carrying excess weight, having high blood pressure, and having high cholesterol all put you at greater risk for Type 2.
As for Type 1, you’re born with it. It occurs when your immune system kills the cells in your pancreas that create insulin. Type 1 is much rarer than Type 2, as only 5% of those with diabetes have it.
Many don’t know they have diabetes, so learn the signs
While diabetes isn’t rare, many don’t realize that they’ve developed Type 2 over time, as the symptoms can often go unnoticed. The CDC notes one in every four people with diabetes don’t know they have it.
You should know the symptoms — particularly if the disease runs in your family or you’re affected by any other risk factors. WebMD explains being very thirsty, frequently urinating, blurry vision, fatigue, frequent yeast infections, and improper wound healing are all signs you may have Type 2.
As for Type 1, weight loss is a common symptom, as it dehydration and damage to your heart, eyes, kidneys, and arteries.
You can prevent Type 2 with lifestyle changes
While Type 1 can’t be reversed, you should do your best to manage Type 2 diabetes — or prevent it completely — with a healthy lifestyle. Mayo Clinic notes how important physical activity is, as it helps keep your blood sugar levels in check and your body fat lower.
Also, make sure you’re eating the right foods. Fiber is super important for warding away diabetes, as it helps promote a healthy weight and lowers your heart disease risk. Whole grains are another food to add in, and making the switch from processed grains to whole is easier than you think. Look for whole-grain options in pasta, bread, and cereal whenever you can.
This vaccine can help Type 1 diabetics specifically
It looks like there might be more options for Type 1 diabetics in the future thanks to new research findings. CBS Boston reports a new long-term study found Type 1 diabetics who received two doses of the bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine, a medicine developed to prevent tuberculosis, showed vast improvement in their HbA1c levels. Essentially, the higher the HbA1c, the greater the risk of developing complications associated with diabetes.
Researchers didn’t see immediate results using this vaccine. But after about three years, improvements were seen in those who took part in the trial. And the news release by Mass General Hospital stated that these improvements “persisted for the following five years.” As Dr. Denise Faustman, director of the MGH Immunobiology Lab, said, “This is clinical validation of the potential to stably lower blood sugars to near normal levels with a safe vaccine, even in patients with longstanding disease.”
The best part about this news is the expense. It turns out the Calmette-Guerin vaccine is inexpensive and quite common, which is great news for anyone who may need to get it for diabetes management in the future.
The clinical trial for Phase 2 is officially underway, so we’ll have to see what other findings we can glean.
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