What Exactly Is Diabetes?

Wednesday, 22 Aug 2012 10:34 AM

By Chauncey Crandall, M.D.

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Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body’s ability to manufacture or use the hormone insulin is diminished. Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas (a gland that lies behind the stomach), enables blood sugar to enter the body’s cells to be used as energy.

If the body’s insulin is not working effectively, glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood, damaging the body’s cells. And because the cells are the basic unit of life, diabetes ultimately damages the entire body, including the heart’s coronary arteries, leading to atherosclerosis, the disease process that causes heart disease and heart attacks.

Diabetes is also a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, stroke, and limb amputations.

Prediabetes — also known as insulin resistance — is a condition in which a person’s fasting glucose level is higher than normal, which is 100, but lower than 126, which is diabetes. Any glucose number over 100 is cause for concern, and must be addressed. When caught in time, pre-diabetes can be stopped and reversed before it develops into full-blown disease.

Work to stave off diabetes and prediabetes by walking an hour a day and eating a plant-based, whole foods diet — beans, most fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

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Chauncey W. Crandall, M.D., is chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic. Dr. Crandall, who received his post-graduate training at Yale University School of Medicine, is author of Dr. Crandall’s Heart Health Report newsletter.
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