Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a strong predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and is associated with both micro- and macrovascular complications.1 Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes up to 70% of all deaths in people with DM. The epidemic of DM will thus be followed by a burden of diabetes-related vascular diseases. The number of DM patients increases with aging of the population, in part because of the increasing prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Although the mortality from coronary artery disease (CAD) in patients without DM has declined since the 1990s, the mortality in men with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) has not changed significantly.2 Moreover, DM is an independent risk factor for heart failure. Heart failure is closely related to diabetic cardiomyopathy: changes in the structure and function of the myocardium are not directly linked to CAD or hypertension. Diabetic cardiomyopathy is clinically characterized by an initial increase in left ventricular stiffness and subclinical diastolic dysfunction, gradually compromising left ventricular systolic function with loss of contractile function and progress into overt congestive heart failure. DM accounts for a significant percentage of patients with a diagnosis of heart failure in epidemiologic studies such as the Framingham Study and the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS).2 A 1% increase in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) correlates to an increment of 8% in heart failure.3 The prevalence of heart failure in elderly diabetic patients is up to 30%.3
Classic symptoms of DM are polyuria, polydipsia, and weight loss. In addition, patients with hyperglycemia often have blurred vision, increased food consumption (polyphagia), and generalized weakness. When a patient with type 1 DM loses metabolic control (such as during infections or periods of noncompliance with therapy), symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis occur. These may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness on arising, intoxication, delirium, coma, or death. Chronic complications of hyperglycemia include retinopathy and blindness, peripheral and autonomic neuropathies, glomerulosclerosis of the kidneys (with proteinuria, nephrotic syndrome, or end-stage renal failure), coronary and peripheral vascular disease, and reduced resistance to infections. Patients with DM often also sustain infected ulcerations of the feet, which may result in osteomyelitis and the need for amputation.
Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.
Another area of pathologic changes associated with diabetes mellitus is the nervous system (diabetic neuropathy), particularly in the peripheral nerves of the lower extremities. The patient typically experiences a “stocking-type” anesthesia beginning about 10 years after the onset of the disease. There may eventually be almost total anesthesia of the affected part with the potential for serious injury to the part without the patient being aware of it. In contrast, some patients experience debilitating pain and hyperesthesia, with loss of deep tendon reflexes.
There is strong evidence that the long-term complications are related to the degree and duration of metabolic disturbances.2 These considerations form the basis of standard and innovative therapeutic approaches to this disease that include newer pharmacologic formulations of insulin, delivery by traditional and more physiologic means, and evolving methods to continuously monitor blood glucose to maintain it within desired limits by linking these features to algorithm-driven insulin delivery pumps for an “artificial pancreas.”
Retinopathy: If blood sugar levels are too high, they can damage the eyes and cause vision loss and blindness. Retinopathy causes the development and leaking of new blood vessels behind the eye. Other effects of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can make this worse. According to the CDC, early treatment can prevent or reduce the risk of blindness in an estimated 90 percent of people with diabetes.
Reduce Your Carbohydrate Intake: One of the most important components involved in a diabetes diet is knowing how to eat a modified carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates are the nutrient that impacts blood sugars the most. Carbohydrates are found in starches, fruit, some vegetables like potatoes, sweets, and grains. Eating the right kinds of carbohydrate in the right quantities can help you manage your weight and your blood sugars. Knowing how to identify and count carbohydrates is very important in managing diabetes. Eating a consistent carbohydrate diet is ideal because it can help you body regulate blood sugars.
Blood sugar should be regularly monitored so that any problems can be detected and treated early. Treatment involves lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy and balanced diet and regular physical exercise. If lifestyle changes alone are not enough to regulate the blood glucose level, anti-diabetic medication in the form of tablets or injections may be prescribed. In some cases, people who have had type 2 diabetes for many years are eventually prescribed insulin injections.
Diabetes is one of the first diseases described[21] with an Egyptian manuscript from c. 1500 BCE mentioning "too great emptying of the urine."[110] The first described cases are believed to be of type 1 diabetes.[110] Indian physicians around the same time identified the disease and classified it as madhumeha or honey urine noting that the urine would attract ants.[110] The term "diabetes" or "to pass through" was first used in 230 BCE by the Greek Apollonius Of Memphis.[110] The disease was rare during the time of the Roman empire with Galen commenting that he had only seen two cases during his career.[110]
Diabetes mellitus is not a single disorder but a heterogeneous group of disorders. All forms are characterized by hyperglycemia and disturbances of carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism which are associated with absolute or relative deficiencies of insulin action and/or insulin secretion. The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a now widely accepted classification of the disorder, largely based on clinical characteristics (see Table 1, WHO, 1985).
Persons with diabetes are prone to infection, delayed healing, and vascular disease. The ease with which poorly controlled diabetic persons develop an infection is thought to be due in part to decreased chemotaxis of leukocytes, abnormal phagocyte function, and diminished blood supply because of atherosclerotic changes in the blood vessels. An impaired blood supply means a deficit in the protective defensive cells transported in the blood. Excessive glucose allows organisms to grow out of control.

Oral Agents. Oral antidiabetic drugs (see hypoglycemic agents) are sometimes prescribed for patients with type 2 diabetes who cannot control their blood glucose with diet and exercise. These are not oral forms of insulin; they are sulfonylureas, chemically related to the sulfonamide antibiotics. Patients receiving them should be taught that the drug they are taking does not eliminate the need for a diet and exercise program. Only the prescribed dosage should be taken; it should never be increased to make up for dietary indiscretions or discontinued unless authorized by the physician.
Fasting glucose test This test involves giving a blood sample after you have fasted for eight hours. (18) If you have a fasting blood sugar level of less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), your blood sugar levels are normal. But if you have one from 100 to 125 mg/dl, you have prediabetes, and if you have 126 mg/dl on two separate occasions, you have diabetes. (17)
Type 2 diabetes primarily occurs as a result of obesity and lack of exercise.[1] Some people are more genetically at risk than others.[6] Type 2 diabetes makes up about 90% of cases of diabetes, with the other 10% due primarily to diabetes mellitus type 1 and gestational diabetes.[1] In diabetes mellitus type 1 there is a lower total level of insulin to control blood glucose, due to an autoimmune induced loss of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.[12][13] Diagnosis of diabetes is by blood tests such as fasting plasma glucose, oral glucose tolerance test, or glycated hemoglobin (A1C).[3]
Though not routinely used any longer, the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is a gold standard for making the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. It is still commonly used for diagnosing gestational diabetes and in conditions of pre-diabetes, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. With an oral glucose tolerance test, the person fasts overnight (at least eight but not more than 16 hours). Then first, the fasting plasma glucose is tested. After this test, the person receives an oral dose (75 grams) of glucose. There are several methods employed by obstetricians to do this test, but the one described here is standard. Usually, the glucose is in a sweet-tasting liquid that the person drinks. Blood samples are taken at specific intervals to measure the blood glucose.

What his theory boils down to is that type 2 diabetes is caused not by extra fat alone, but by fat stored in the wrong places. "Virtually all the individuals [with insulin resistance] have fat accumulation in liver and muscle," Shulman says, where it may disrupt normal biological processes, leading to insulin resistance. "If you can understand this, you can ideally come up with new ways to prevent insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes."
Patients need to ensure that their blood glucose levels are kept as normal as possible so that delicate tissues in the body (especially blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys and peripheral nerves) are not damaged by high glucose levels over a long period of time. To achieve this, patients need to measure their glucose regularly and learn how to adjust their insulin doses in order to optimise their glucose levels (diabetes control). Good diabetes control helps to minimise the risk of long-term diabetes complications, as well as short-term symptoms (such as thirst).
A metabolic disease in which carbohydrate use is reduced and that of lipid and protein enhanced; it is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin and is characterized, in more severe cases, by chronic hyperglycemia, glycosuria, water and electrolyte loss, ketoacidosis, and coma; long-term complications include neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, generalized degenerative changes in large and small blood vessels, and increased susceptibility to infection.
Although urine can also be tested for the presence of glucose, checking urine is not a good way to monitor treatment or adjust therapy. Urine testing can be misleading because the amount of glucose in the urine may not reflect the current level of glucose in the blood. Blood glucose levels can get very low or reasonably high without any change in the glucose levels in the urine.
Your doctor will carefully examine you at each visit for diabetes. In particular they will examine your cardiovascular system, eyes and neurological systems to detect any complications present. In the acute phase you may appear wasted and dehydrated. You may have difficulty breathing and have a sweet smell to your breath. In the later stages, your doctor will check your pulse, listen to your heart, measure your blood pressure (often lying and standing) and examine your limbs to detect any loss of sensation or ulcers.
Another less common form is gestational diabetes, a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. Depending on risk factors, between 3% to 13% of Canadian women will develop gestational diabetes which can be harmful for the baby if not controlled. The problem usually clears up after delivery, but women who have had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Yet carbs are processed differently in the body based on their type: While simple carbs are digested and metabolized quickly, complex carbs take longer to go through this system, resulting in more stable blood sugar. “It comes down to their chemical forms: A simple carbohydrate has a simpler chemical makeup, so it doesn’t take as much for it to be digested, whereas the complex ones take a little longer,” Grieger explains.
The diabetic patient should learn to recognize symptoms of low blood sugar (such as confusion, sweats, and palpitations) and high blood sugar (such as, polyuria and polydipsia). When either condition results in hospitalization, vital signs, weight, fluid intake, urine output, and caloric intake are accurately documented. Serum glucose and urine ketone levels are evaluated. Chronic management of DM is also based on periodic measurement of glycosylated hemoglobin levels (HbA1c). Elevated levels of HbA1c suggest poor long-term glucose control. The effects of diabetes on other body systems (such as cerebrovascular, coronary artery, and peripheral vascular) should be regularly assessed. Patients should be evaluated regularly for retinal disease and visual impairment and peripheral and autonomic nervous system abnormalities, e.g., loss of sensation in the feet. The patient is observed for signs and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, e.g., numbness or pain in the hands and feet, decreased vibratory sense, footdrop, and neurogenic bladder. The urine is checked for microalbumin or overt protein losses, an early indication of nephropathy. The combination of peripheral neuropathy and peripheral arterial disease results in changes in the skin and microvasculature that lead to ulcer formation on the feet and lower legs with poor healing. Approx. 45,000 lower-extremity diabetic amputations are performed in the U.S. each year. Many amputees have a second amputation within five years. Most of these amputations are preventable with regular foot care and examinations. Diabetic patients and their providers should look for changes in sensation to touch and vibration, the integrity of pulses, capillary refill, and the skin. All injuries, cuts, and blisters should be treated promptly. The patient should avoid constricting hose, slippers, shoes, and bed linens or walking barefoot. The patient with ulcerated or insensitive feet is referred to a podiatrist for continuing foot care and is warned that decreased sensation can mask injuries.
Sources of processed or added sugar, including condiments, honey, and especially sugary drinks, are just a few of the potential culprits for weight gain, Grieger says, and it’s when they’re consumed in excess that they can contribute to diabetes risk. “The largest source of added sugar comes from sweetened beverages. They run the gamut of soda, sweetened tea, juices with added sugar, sports drinks — it’s a plethora. Just about everything we drink has added sugar in it, except for water,” she explains.
There is an overall lack of public awareness of the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Making yourself aware of the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes is a great way to be proactive about your health and the health of your family members. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, it’s possible that you have (or your child has) type 1 diabetes. A doctor can make that diagnosis by checking blood glucose levels.
What does the research say about proactive type 2 diabetes management? Research shows that proactive management can pay off in fewer complications down the road. In the landmark UKPDS study, 5,102 patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were followed for an average of 10 years to determine whether intensive use of blood glucose-lowering drugs would result in health benefits. Tighter average glucose control (an A1c of 7.0% vs. an A1c of 7.9%) reduced the rate of complications in the eyes, kidneys, and nervous system, by 25%. For every percentage point decrease in A1c (e.g., from 9% to 8%), there was a 25% reduction in diabetes-related deaths, and an 18% reduction in combined fatal and nonfatal heart attacks.
Management. There is no cure for diabetes; the goal of treatment is to maintain blood glucose and lipid levels within normal limits and to prevent complications. In general, good control is achieved when the following occur: fasting plasma glucose is within a specific range (set by health care providers and the individual), glycosylated hemoglobin tests show that blood sugar levels have stayed within normal limits from one testing period to the next, the patient's weight is normal, blood lipids remain within normal limits, and the patient has a sense of health and well-being.

Diet management is very important in people with both types of diabetes mellitus. Doctors recommend a healthy, balanced diet and efforts to maintain a healthy weight. People with diabetes can benefit from meeting with a dietitian or a diabetes educator to develop an optimal eating plan. Such a plan includes avoiding simple sugars and processed foods, increasing dietary fiber, limiting portions of carbohydrate-rich, and fatty foods (especially saturated fats). People who are taking insulin should avoid long periods between meals to prevent hypoglycemia. Although protein and fat in the diet contribute to the number of calories a person eats, only the number of carbohydrates has a direct effect on blood glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association has many helpful tips on diet, including recipes. Even when people follow a proper diet, cholesterol-lowering drugs are needed to decrease the risk of heart disease (see recommendations).


Another less common form is gestational diabetes, a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. Depending on risk factors, between 3% to 13% of Canadian women will develop gestational diabetes which can be harmful for the baby if not controlled. The problem usually clears up after delivery, but women who have had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Insulin is the hormone responsible for reducing blood sugar. In order for insulin to work, our tissues have to be sensitive to its action; otherwise, tissues become resistant and insulin struggles to clear out sugar from the blood. As insulin resistance sets in, the first organ to stop responding to insulin is the liver, followed by the muscles and eventually fat. How does insulin resistance begin? The root of the problem is our diet.
Diabetes is a chronic condition, and it can last an entire lifetime. The goal of treating diabetes is to keep blood glucose levels as close to a normal range as possible. This prevents the symptoms of diabetes and the long-term complications of the condition. If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor – working with the members of your diabetes care team – will help you find your target blood glucose levels.
People with full-blown type 2 diabetes are not able to use the hormone insulin properly, and have what’s called insulin resistance. Insulin is necessary for glucose, or sugar, to get from your blood into your cells to be used for energy. When there is not enough insulin — or when the hormone doesn’t function as it should — glucose accumulates in the blood instead of being used by the cells. This sugar accumulation may lead to the aforementioned complications.
×