Diabetes A Global Concern
By Deng Wei Qiang & Juliana Sun
To understand diabetes, it’s vital to understand how insulin and glucose work together. When you eat, your body turns food into sugar, or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, allowing the glucose to enter so you can use it for energy. In cases of diabetes, this system fails to work.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a long-term metabolic disease in which the body does not appropriately process glucose. Diabetes develops when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or is not able to use insulin effectively, or both. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells. If you have diabetes, regardless of what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ.
Types Of Diabetes
It is known as impaired glucose tolerance, a condition whereby your blood-sugar level elevates to a level higher than the normal range for most people, but is still low enough not to be considered diabetes. People who have been diagnosed with prediabetes can prevent their health from deteriorating into full-blown type 2 diabetes by watching their weight, exercising and making healthful food choices.
As the name suggests, this is due to the growing fetus and placenta secreting hormones that decrease the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can lead to diabetes. In gestational diabetes, blood sugar usually returns to normal soon after delivery. However, this form of diabetes increases a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D)
This is an autoimmune disease whereby the pancreas produces very little insulin or no insulin at all. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it. Sufferers of T1D are usually under the age of 40, and most commonly diagnosed as children or young adults. People who develop T1D will have the disease for life and will need treatment in the form of insulin shots or an insulin pump. In addition to insulin therapy, careful attention to diet and exercise is necessary to prevent fluctuations of blood sugar.
Type 2 Diabetes (T2D)
The vast majority of people living with diabetes, including children, have type 2 diabetes. It is largely the result of poor diet, excess weight and physical inactivity. The cells in the bodies T2D sufferers are impeded from using insulin properly. At the onset of the problem, the pancreas produces extra insulin in an attempt to compensate for the body’s insulin resistance. Over time, the pancreas fails to make enough insulin to keep blood glucose at a healthy level. Although there are gene mutations associated with T2D, genes alone are not responsible for it. If a parent or sibling develops T2D later in life, a person has a greater chance of getting the disease as well, but this is in part due to lifestyle choices such as diet and activity level tend to run in families. T2D can be managed by adopting a healthy diet and a disciplined exercise program.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF):
Every six seconds a person dies from diabetes.
One in two (46 percent) people with diabetes are undiagnosed.
By 2040, one adult in 10 will have diabetes.
One in seven births is affected by gestational diabetes.
The greatest number of people with diabetes are between 40 and 59 years of age.
Type 2 diabetes has become a modern-day plague. Previously, it was predominantly a disease of middle-aged and elderly people. However, in recent years, onset in those under the age of 30 is increasingly common. The World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the need to step up prevention and treatment of diabetes. Key findings from its Global Report on Diabetes, published on April 6, 2016, include the following:
The number of people living with diabetes is growing in all regions of the world. As of 2014, 422 million adults (8.5 percent of adults worldwide) have diabetes, compared with 108 million (4.7 percent) in 1980.
Diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012. Higher-than-optimal blood glucose caused an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risks of cardiovascular and other diseases.
In 2014, more than one in three adults over the age of 18 were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.
Many of these deaths (43 percent) occur prematurely, before the age of 70, and are largely preventable through adoption of healthy lifestyles.
Good management includes regular screening for early detection and treatment of complications.
Signs and Symptoms
Individuals can experience different signs and symptoms of diabetes, and sometimes there may be no signs. Some of the signs and symptoms commonly experienced include:
Lack of interest and concentration
A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet
Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken for the flu)
The development of type 1 diabetes is usually sudden and dramatic while the symptoms in people with type 2 diabetes can often be mild or absent, making type 2 diabetes hard to detect.
The majority of people with prediabetes have no symptoms and don’t even know that they have the condition until routine blood work reveals an elevated blood-glucose level. Prediabetes is a wakeup call that you’re on the path to diabetes. Without intervention, 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
You may have moved from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes if you experience:
increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing of wounds, genital itching, and unexplained weight loss.
Classic red flags
If your cells are deprived of sugar, you may become tired and irritable.
Without enough insulin to move sugar into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted of energy. This triggers intense hunger that may persist even after you eat. Without insulin, the sugar in your food never reaches your energy-starved tissues.
Increased thirst and frequent urination
Excess sugar building up in your bloodstream causes fluid to be pulled from the tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you’ll urinate even more.
Despite eating more than usual to relieve hunger, you may still lose weight. Since your body isn’t getting energy from food, it turns to muscles and fat and starts to break them down in order to create energy. The result is weight loss.
If your blood-sugar level is too high, fluid may be pulled from the lenses of your eyes. This may affect your ability to focus clearly.
Consult a health professional. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of the condition.
Complications of Diabetes
Long-term elevation of blood glucose eventually damages and destroys the beta cells, the unique cells in the pancreas that produce, store and release the hormone insulin. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation will also destroy these special cells. The longer these negative processes go on, the more beta cells will die. Eventually, when the number of beta cells has dropped to half of their original number, type 2 diabetes is typically irreversible. This is the reason it is so important to identify prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and lower your blood glucose before permanent damage is done.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults ages 20 to 74. People with diabetes may experience blurry vision when their blood glucose is consistently too high. They’re also at greater risk for three serious eye problems: cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than someone without diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes harms blood vessels, making them more prone to damage from atherosclerosis and hypertension. Some people with diabetes develop atherosclerosis at a younger age and more severely than people without diabetes. They are also more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people who do not have diabetes. If you have diabetes, you can have a heart attack without realizing it. Diabetes can damage nerves as well as blood vessels, so a heart attack can be “silent,” in that it lacks the typical chest pain.
Nerve disease (diabetic neuropathy)
People with diabetes can, over time, develop nerve damage throughout the body. Among the most commonly affected areas are the extremities, in particular the feet. Nerve damage in these areas is called peripheral neuropathy, and can lead to pain, tingling and loss of feeling. Loss of feeling is particularly dangerous because it can mean injuries go unnoticed, leading to serious infections and, eventually, amputation. Maintaining good foot care, wearing comfortable shoes and socks, and doing careful daily inspections of your feet are effective ways of preventing amputation.
Kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy)
Diabetes is the number-one cause of kidney failure. High blood sugar forces the kidneys to filter too much blood. Over time, this overwork impairs their filtering ability, ultimately leading to kidney damage and failure.
No one is certain what starts the processes that cause diabetes, but scientists believe lifestyle factors and genes interact to cause diabetes in most cases.
Causes of Diabetes
Anyone can get diabetes, but some people are at a much higher risk, particularly those who are obese, over age 40, and/or have a family history. Desk jobs, long working hours, late-night shifts, partying till the wee hours, smoking, drinking alcohol, eating fast food and junk food, lack of sleep, and stress are also some contributing factors that lead to weight gain and lifestyle diseases. An imbalance between caloric intake and physical activity can lead to obesity, which causes insulin resistance and is common in people with type 2 diabetes.
Overweight and obese people have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with a healthy body weight. People with a lot of visceral fat, also known as central obesity, belly fat, or abdominal obesity, are especially at risk. Being overweight or obese causes the body to release chemicals that can destabilize the body’s cardiovascular and metabolic systems. Experts believe excess belly fat produces hormones that increase inflammation, which can lead to insulin resistance. Globally, obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes.
Most of us live a stressful life. But for diabetes sufferers, further physical, mental and emotional stress can take a greater toll on health. Stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol kick in when a person is under duress, and one of their major functions is to raise blood sugar to help boost energy when it’s needed most. Think of the fight-or-flight response. You can’t fight danger when your blood sugar is low, so it rises to help meet the challenge.
Genes play a part in susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. Having certain genes or combinations of genes may increase or decrease a person’s risk for developing the disease. Although genes play a role in type 2 diabetes, lifestyle choices are also important. You can, for example, have a genetic mutation that has the potential to make you susceptible to type 2, but if you take good care of your body, you may not develop diabetes.
Ways to Beat Diabetes
Dietary changes can have a big impact on the risk of diabetes:
Choose whole grains and whole-grain products instead of highly processed carbohydrates.
Skip the sugary drinks, and choose water, coffee or tea instead.
Choose good fats such as olive oil; avoid trans fats.
Limit processed meat.
Soothe Stress and Calm Your Mind
The Importance of Exercise
Diabetes is largely preventable. Studies have found that lifestyle changes such as daily exercise and even minor weight loss in the range of five to 10 percent can prevent or delay the development of diabetes among high-risk adults.
Bodhi Meditation’s various methods of meditative practice can be of great benefit in keeping the body fit and healthy.
The Full Prostration is a gentle aerobic exercise. It trains your muscles and helps to burn visceral fat and improve the functions of visceral organs. Through regular practice of prostration, weight loss can be safely achieved.
Energy Bagua is a walking meditation created by the enlightened Meditation Grandmaster JinBodhi, a culmination of his years of cultivation. It is a method of maintaining good health that balances yin and yang energy while facilitating interaction with Universal energy, regenerating vitality and improving health.
The Meditation of Greater Illumination is a way of quickly replenishing one’s energy and regaining vitality while strengthening one’s immunity, thus promoting health. It purifies the mind and body, tames all troubling thoughts and calms the mind.
Liu Xiao Juan from New York suffered from diabetes for 20 years. Her blood glucose went as high as 199mg/dL (the normal range is 70-99mg/dL). In May 2014 she participated in a Bodhi Meditation Retreat and continued to practice subsequently. During a medical checkup in July 2015, she was overjoyed to learn that her blood-sugar level had dropped to 99 mg/dL – it had returned to the normal range after 20 years of diabetes.
Benefits From Bodhi Meditation
Teng-Xiang from Vancouver suffered from diabetes for 40 years. She learned The Meditation of Greater Illumination, Energy Bagua and prostration in 2012. After a few months of diligent practice, her blood-glucose level decreased into the normal range. In the past, her blood-glucose level climbed to 324 mg/dL. Now, through practice and a sensible diet, she is able to achieve normal blood glucose after 40 years of diabetes.
Prediabetes can be an opportunity for you to improve your health. Progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Making a few lifestyle changes can dramatically lower the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. The same lifestyle adjustments can also lower the chances of developing heart disease and some cancers. Take the necessary steps to balance your blood sugar and stave off diabetes. This global concern can be stopped.