How Does Type 2 Diabetes Kill?

Diabetes can be classified into type 1 diabetes (genetic disorder), type 2 diabetes (lifestyle disorder), gestational diabetes (pregnancy & lifestyle disorder) and diabetes of chronic disease (such as cystic fibrosis, treatment of HIV/AIDS or organ transplantation).  Over 90% of patients with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.  Almost 10% of US population has diabetes and large number of people are undiagnosed.

The risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) > 25kg/m2 (calculate your BMI)
  • Age >45 years
  • Family history in first degree in relative (mother or father)
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure of 140/90 or above
  • HDL (good cholesterol) less or equal to 35 and or triglycerides more or equal to 250
  • Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • History of vascular disease
  • African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American, Pacific Islanders ancestory
  • Previously identified A1C greater or equal to 5.7%
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • Impaired fasting glucose

American Diabetic Association diagnostic criteria for type 2 diabetes include:

1. Hemoglobin A1C test greater or equal to 6.5% or

2. Fasting plasma glucose greater or equal to 126mg/dl or

3. 2 hour plasma glucose greater 200mg/dl

4. Random glucose test of 200mg/dl with symptoms of high blood sugar–increased thirst, hunger and urination.

So what is so bad about increased blood sugar?

High blood sugar by itself does not kill–all healthy people have transient high blood sugar surges post meals.  What kills is the chronic or prolonged high blood sugar which damages vessels and major body organs.  As those organs fail to function, so is the rest of the body.  Organ systems that get the most damage include:

  • Cardiovascular system –including blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart which in turn can lead to heart pain, heart attack and stroke.
  • Nervous system–damage to nerve endings (neuropathy) can lead to numbness, tingling or burning sensation in fingers and toes, if left without treatment can affect the entire limb. Also, nerve damage in reproductive organs causes erectile dysfunction.
  • Urinary system–kidneys filter blood and waste, damage (nephropathy) can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • Visual system (which is technically part of nervous system)–eye damage (retinopathy) via damage to the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy) can potentially lead to blindness. Prolonged high blood sugar also increases the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Integumentary or skin system–decreased blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various skin complications in the feet. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections. Severe damage might require toe, foot or even leg amputation.
  • Immune system conditions–diabetics are more susceptible bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Skeletal system–or bones… Diabetes may lead to lower than normal bone mineral density, increasing your risk of osteoporosis which increases risk of bone fractures.
  • Also some studies suggest there is an increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer with Type 2 diabetes.  And the poorer the blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be.

As one can see it is not the blood sugar per se that brings on the trouble, it is the damage that is caused to the functional organs of the body that lead to the devastating consequences of uncontrolled diabetes.

And the cure?  Stay fit, eat clean, manage stress and your body health will follow.





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