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Senior Health Week: Diabetes
Health News You Can Use •

Latest Diabetes News:

Acarbose May Help Delay Development of Type 2 Diabetes: The drug, which blocks the digestion of starch, may help prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes in patients with slightly elevated blood sugar levels, according to researchers.

Recent Diabetes News:

Some Diabetics May Benefit From Sleeping With the Lights On: Researchers say nighttime lighting can help prevent the onset of diabetic retinopathy, a condition which can result in severe visual impairment in diabetic patients.

2 Glucose Test Meters Combined With Handspring PDAs Approved by FDA: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared for marketing two glucose test meters that allow diabetes patients to more easily track and manage their blood sugar levels using computer technology.

More Aggressive Control of Blood Glucose Urged for Type 2 Diabetics: The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is calling for urgent action to slow the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes by more aggressive management of blood glucose control.

Special Guidelines for Diabetics on Getting Through Airport Security: How to carry your equipment, medication and supplies through security checkpoints with minimal delays.

Special Shoes and Inserts Do Not Appear to Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcers: Researchers say careful attention by healthcare professionals may be more important than therapeutic footwear.

Glucophage Sometimes Prescribed for Patients Who Should Not Use It: Researchers say that despite clear "black box" warnings, the widely used diabetes drug is sometimes prescribed for patients also suffering from congestive heart failure or kidney dysfunction.

2 Drinks a Day May Help Postmenopausal Women Avoid Diabetes: Researchers say women who drink one to two alcoholic drinks daily respond better to insulin and have lower levels of insulin in their blood.

Diet Rich in Whole Grains Can Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Researchers report that overweight or obese adults who eat a diet rich in whole-grain foods can improve their insulin sensitivity.

Researchers Present Update on Islet Cell Transplants for Diabetics: Seventy percent of the 33 patients who have received islet transplants from the pioneering team at the University of Alberta are reported to have had no need for insulin injections for two years.

Diabetics Not at Significant Risk During Major Vascular Surgery: Researchers say the findings of a 10-year study ease fears surgery involving blood vessels poses a significant risk to patients with diabetes mellitus.

CDC Says Vast Improvement Needed in Diabetic Care: The researchers also said diabteic patients without health insurance were less likely to have control of their blood sugar and have eye and foot exams than those with insurance.

Study Focuses on Ways to Keep Blood Glucose Levels Under Control: In addition to regimen of diet, exercise and oral medication, patients will begin receiving insulin injections for the first time during the course of the study.

Intensive Lifestyle Changes Needed to Lower Risk of Diabetes: Researchers say that for people at risk, modest efforts to increase exercise and improve eating habits may not be enough to keep from getting the disease.

Long-Term, Intensive Exercise Helps Body Better Control Glucose Levels: Researchers say the benefits of an exercise program are still at work one month after the exercise is discontinued.

Changes in Diet, Exercise Could Cut Diabetes Risk for 10 Million Americans: At least 10 million overweight Americans could sharply cut their risk of developing diabetes by making modest diet changes and engaging in moderate exercise, according to a major government study.

New Glucose Measuring Device Uses Arm Instead of Finger: A new device that patients can use to monitor their blood glucose levels provides accurate results, and virtually all patients find it significantly less painful than finger-stick tests, according to a report in Diabetes Care.

Postmenopausal Women With Diabetes at Great Risk of Hip Fracture: Postmenopausal women with diabetes appear to be at significantly greater risk of suffering a hip fracture than women without diabetes, according to University of Minnesota Researchers.

Diabetes Primer:

More than 16 million people in the United States have diabetes mellitus--a serious, lifelong condition.

Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism--the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose, the form of sugar in the blood. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body. After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by cells for growth and energy. For glucose to get into cells, insulin must be present.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach. When we eat, the pancreas is supposed to automatically produce the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into our cells. In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose.

The three main types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In diabetes, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. Someone with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin daily to live. At present, scientists do not know exactly what causes the body's immune system to attack the beta cells, but they believe that both genetic factors and environmental factors, possibly viruses, are involved. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States.
  • Type 2 diabetes. The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2, and one-third of them have not been diagnosed. This form of diabetes usually develops in adults age 40 and older and is most common in adults over age 55. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Type 2 diabetes is often part of a metabolic syndrome that includes obesity, elevated blood pressure, and high levels of blood lipids. When type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin, but, for unknown reasons, the body cannot use the insulin effectively, a condition called insulin resistance. After several years, insulin production decreases. The result is the same as for type 1 diabetes--glucose builds up in the blood and the body cannot make efficient use of its main source of fuel. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop gradually. They are not as sudden in onset as in type 1 diabetes. Some people have no symptoms. Symptoms may include fatigue or nausea, frequent urination, unusual thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, and slow healing of wounds or sores.
  • Gestational Diabetes. Gestational diabetes develops only during pregnancy. Though it usually disappears after delivery, the mother is at increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life.

A diagnosis of diabetes is made for any one of three positive tests, with a second positive test on a different day:

  • A random plasma glucose value (taken any time of day) of 200 mg/dL or more, along with the presence of diabetes symptoms.
  • A plasma glucose value of 126 mg/dL or more, after a person has fasted for 8 hours.
  • An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) plasma glucose value of 200 mg/dL or more in the blood sample, taken 2 hours after a person has consumed a drink containing 75 grams of glucose dissolved in water. This test, taken in a laboratory or the doctor's office, measures plasma glucose at timed intervals over a 3-hour period.

Diabetes is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. According to death certificate data, diabetes contributed to the deaths of more than 193,140 people in 1996.

Diabetes is associated with long-term complications that affect almost every part of the body. The disease often leads to blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, strokes, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage. Uncontrolled diabetes can complicate pregnancy, and birth defects are more common in babies born to women with diabetes. In 1997, diabetes cost the United States $98 billion. Indirect costs, including disability payments, time lost from work, and premature death, totaled $54 billion; direct medical costs for diabetes care, including hospitalizations, medical care, and treatment supplies, totaled $44 billion.

Diabetes is not contagious. People cannot "catch" it from each other. However, certain factors can increase the risk of developing diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs equally among males and females, but is more common in whites than in nonwhites. Data from the World Health Organization's Multinational Project for Childhood Diabetes indicate that type 1 diabetes is rare in most African, American Indian, and Asian populations. However, some northern European countries, including Finland and Sweden, have high rates of type 1 diabetes. The reasons for these differences are not known.
  • Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, especially in people who are overweight, and occurs more often in African Americans, American Indians, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and Hispanic Americans. On average, non-Hispanic African Americans are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites of the same age. Hispanic Americans are nearly twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. American Indians have the highest rates of diabetes in the world. Among the Pima Indians living in Arizona, for example, half of all adults have type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes in the United States is likely to increase for several reasons. First, a large segment of the population is aging. Also, Hispanic Americans and other minority groups make up the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Finally, Americans are increasingly overweight and sedentary. According to recent estimates, the prevalence of diabetes in the United States is predicted to be 8.9 percent of the population by 2025.

Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, everyone with type 1 diabetes died within a few years after diagnosis. Although insulin is not considered a cure, its discovery was the first major breakthrough in diabetes treatment. Today, healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin via injection or an insulin pump are the basic therapies for type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose checking.

Healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic management tools for type 2 diabetes. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication and insulin to control their blood glucose levels.

People with diabetes must take responsibility for their day-to-day care. Much of the daily care involves keeping blood glucose levels from going too low or too high. When blood glucose levels drop too low from certain diabetes medicines--a condition known as hypoglycemia--a person can become nervous, shaky, and confused. Judgment can be impaired. If blood glucose falls too low, a person can faint.

A person can also become ill if blood glucose levels rise too high, a condition known as hyperglycemia.

The goal of diabetes management is to keep blood glucose levels as close to the normal range as safely possible. A recent major study, the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), showed that keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as safely possible reduces the risk of developing major complications of type 1 diabetes.

The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, a European study completed in 1998, showed that intensive control of blood glucose and blood pressure reduced the risk of blindness, kidney disease, stroke, and heart attack in people with type 2 diabetes.

Background information provided by: The National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892












































































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