The WHO estimates that diabetes mellitus resulted in 1.5 million deaths in 2012, making it the 8th leading cause of death. However another 2.2 million deaths worldwide were attributable to high blood glucose and the increased risks of cardiovascular disease and other associated complications (e.g. kidney failure), which often lead to premature death and are often listed as the underlying cause on death certificates rather than diabetes. For example, in 2014, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimated that diabetes resulted in 4.9 million deaths worldwide, using modeling to estimate the total number of deaths that could be directly or indirectly attributed to diabetes.
Diabetes doesn’t cause nearly as much of a stir in the media compared to HIV or cancer, but a few well-known names are associated with the disease – Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, and Paula Deen. And who doesn’t love that Food Network maven and American celebrity chef? Scandals aside, diabetes comes in two versions – Type I or Type II. In Type I, the pancreas decides to drop out of the physiological rat race and go on to discover its own metabolic purpose in life. As a result, the body generates little or no insulin, a hormone important in sugar metabolism. In Type II, unfortunate dietary choices, such as eating tons of sugar and carbohydrates, jam up the sugar absorption process, causing the body to become resistant to the insulin hormone. Type 2 makes up 90 percent of all cases of diabetes, which is going to be our focus here as we talk about when there will be a cure for diabetes. (Spoiler alert: Probably only after we ban the Big Gulp and the Big Mac.)
So how does the wellness movement keep perspective and stay focused on what matters? It’s not about just finding one’s true north but following it, day after day, year after year. Straying happens as more of a gradual slide than as any single decision to go down a bad road. You start off doing what you think is right or helpful or normal, and then it feels good to make some money, and then it feels necessary, and you have an obligation to grow and to be seen as flourishing and successful. Then before you know it, you’re running a huge company that’s preying on seekers and begging them off course.
Keep your blood pressure under control. People with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure than are people who don't have diabetes. Having both high blood pressure and diabetes greatly increases your risk of complications because both damage your blood vessels and reduce blood flow. Try to keep your blood pressure in the range your doctor recommends, and be sure to have it checked at every office visit.
Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter -- and allow you to use the glucose for energy. Without insulin, there is no “key.” So, the sugar stays -- and builds up-- in the blood. The result: the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose. And, if left untreated, the high level of “blood sugar” can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart, and can also lead to coma and death.
Learning about the disease and actively participating in the treatment is important, since complications are far less common and less severe in people who have well-managed blood sugar levels. The goal of treatment is an HbA1C level of 6.5%, but should not be lower than that, and may be set higher. Attention is also paid to other health problems that may accelerate the negative effects of diabetes. These include smoking, elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, high blood pressure, and lack of regular exercise. Specialized footwear is widely used to reduce the risk of ulceration, or re-ulceration, in at-risk diabetic feet. Evidence for the efficacy of this remains equivocal, however.
A major feature of the disease is a condition known as insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose (sugar), from the bloodstream into the body’s cells where it is used for energy. For a variety of reasons that are not fully understood, the body’s tissues don’t respond adequately to insulin and glucose then becomes elevated in the bloodstream.
In addition to the problems with an increase in insulin resistance, the release of insulin by the pancreas may also be defective and suboptimal. In fact, there is a known steady decline in beta cell production of insulin in type 2 diabetes that contributes to worsening glucose control. (This is a major factor for many patients with type 2 diabetes who ultimately require insulin therapy.) Finally, the liver in these patients continues to produce glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis despite elevated glucose levels. The control of gluconeogenesis becomes compromised.