Diabetes is more than blood tests and finger pricks. It has the ability to physically affect individuals, alter the way people live their lives and cause devastation to families who know the heartbreaking effects of the disease first-hand.
Although the disease can be managed, diabetes has tragically affected many families globally, including my own. My older brother passed away on his 25th birthday from undetected diabetes.
Two days before his birthday, he went to the hospital because he did not feel well. Rather than pricking his finger to test his blood sugar for diabetes, the physician assistant asserted that he had the flu and subsequently sent him home.
The next day, my brother began hallucinating, became unable to hold his urine, felt numb and extremely thirsty. His kidneys and other organs began shutting down as he went into a diabetic coma and never woke up again.
Instead of celebrating his birthday and his promising future, my family grieved the loss and mourned the life he had.
Eleven years have passed, but the memory of my brother is constantly on my mind and in my heart. I still feel as though diabetes robbed me of the future experiences with my brother that I could have and should have had.
While the pain of losing my brother has lessened, the aforementioned series of tragic events will never be forgotten.
Because of this disease, my brother was not here to see me get my driver’s license, graduate high school, experience college and live my life. I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if we would have known that he was diabetic.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to produce enough or any insulin, which causes elevated levels of sugar in the blood. The two major types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, are common in millions of Americans, regardless of age.
According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, type 1 diabetes causes the body to completely stop producing any insulin, a hormone that enables the body to use glucose found in foods for energy.
This form of diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but can occur at any age.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin and/or is unable to use insulin properly. This form of diabetes usually occurs in people who are over 40, overweight and have a family history of diabetes, although today, it is increasingly occurring in younger people.
November is national diabetes awareness month, and according to the International Diabetes Federation, every seven seconds, a person dies from diabetes. We have the power to be proactive in our own lives.
As young adults, we may feel invincible and free, as if we are completely untouchable. But, that does not mean we should be careless about our health.
In a culture with sugar-filled food accessible on most streets, the amount of sugar that we may thoughtlessly consume is endless. Diabetes is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly. Steps can be taken to be more cautious of diabetes:
Take the test
Although there are different types of tests for diabetes, getting tested for type 2 does not require 20 test tubes and an enormous syringe, sucking large amounts of blood out of your body.
With a quick prick of the finger using a handheld device, individuals can find out, in seconds, where their blood glucose level stands and whether or not it is considered to be diabetic. It is important to get tested at least once a year.
Be mindful of what you eat and drink
Being diabetic does not mean that you have to completely eliminate all of the awesome-tasting foods from your diet; it only means that you have to watch how much sugar you pour into your body.
Eating one doughnut from the best doughnut store in town may not be as harmful as eating a dozen doughnuts in one sitting, just as choosing unsweetened tea over sweet tea may be more beneficial, too.
Just as every body is different, every person who has diabetes should talk to a doctor or dietitian to know how much sugar he or she should or should not consume.
Just because you may not have diabetes now does not mean that you will never have it
Even if you believe you are the healthiest person to live, it does not mean you should avoid getting tested every now and then.
Even the skinniest of people can be diagnosed with diabetes. Family history, genetics and a person’s ethnicity are other factors that may contribute to diabetes.
Listen to your body
If you do not feel well or have any symptoms, listen to your body and see a doctor. Symptoms of diabetes include constant thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, increased hunger, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
It is possible, however, that symptoms may go unrecognized, which is why it is important to get tested.
Drinking sufficient amounts of water is the key to staying hydrated. The risk of being dehydrated increases in those who have diabetes because due to constant urination or the depletion of fluids.
Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water each day. This can help replenish the body and decrease the chance of being dehydrated.
If you, or someone you know, is at risk of having diabetes, it is important to get tested in order to be able to live a healthy life. Having diabetes does not mean the world is ending. However, losing someone to diabetes may feel like the end of the world.
Be cautious and talk to a doctor about getting checked for diabetes.