What is diabetes mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus is a common disorder which arises from the bodies inability to use sugar in the blood (the main type being glucose). Glucose is one of the main sources of energy for the body to perform its functions.
Glucose enters muscle and other cell types under the influence of the hormone insulin which is produced in the pancreas gland. Diabetes results when the glucose in the blood cannot be taken up by the muscles or other cells due to too little insulin being made by the pancreas gland or that the insulin produced does not work correctly. When insulin does not work correctly, we call this situation insulin resistance.
When there is a lack of insulin in the blood stream which is the usual situation in diabetes of childhood, the condition is called Type I diabetes. The much more common type of diabetes called Type II diabetes occurs in adults and is usually associated with obesity. There is a much greater hereditary influence over this type of diabetes. In subjects with type II diabetes there is usually adequate amounts of insulin in the blood but the patients cells are less responsive to insulinís actions and thus there is an insulin resistance. The occurrence of a central weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal lipid particles such as high levels of triglyceride is called the metabolic syndrome ( also referred to as insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X). This condition may be delayed or controlled with diet and exercise.
There is no cure for diabetes, but the level of glucose in the blood can be carefully controlled with the use of insulin or drugs which enhance the action of insulin. Despite controlling the insulin level, both forms of diabetes seriously increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. More than 80 percent of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. Diabetes can also lead to kidney disease, blindness and nerve damage.
When Diabetes is associated with other risk factors such as a high blood cholesterol level, high blood pressure and cigarette smoking, the risk of heart attack and stroke is excessively high. Today, the mere presence of diabetes, is considered as much a risk for a future heart attack as in someone who has had a heart attack. Diabetes is particularly bad in women and removes their normal protection from heart disease in the pre-menopausal years. Recent studies have shown that diabetic patients who have their cholesterol levels reduced have a much lower risk of heart attacks than in those who have not have their cholesterol levels even though they all received the same amount of control of their blood glucose. It is therefore very important in diabetic patients to control weight and blood cholesterol with a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet and regular exercise. Itís also important to lower high blood pressure and avoid smoking.