Glucose is a sugar that our body’s cells use as fuel to perform their metabolic functions and is obtained from the food we eat. During digestion, the digestive system breaks down food for nutrients and energy in the form of glucose, which is transported by blood through the circulatory system to all organs of the body. When cells require energy to function, they obtain the glucose available in the blood through insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas which is responsible for opening the receptors of the cells to obtain glucose and its respective process or metabolization. When cells take up the glucose they need, the insulin level drops so that the remaining glucose in the blood is stored for later use.
When there are failures in the process of the utilization of glucose by the cells of the body, this causes symptoms of the disease called diabetes mellitus.
Whether the available glucose becomes insufficient due to an increased requirement as happens during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), or there are problems metabolizing glucose due to failures of the production or utilization of insulin, diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that mainly affects the heart, eyes, kidneys and nervous system.
Diabetes does not discriminate by age or gender. Many suffer from it without knowing it, until they see serious symptoms due to the damage caused by the high levels of glucose contained in the blood.
According to official data, diabetes is the second leading cause of death in Mexico, with up to 400 deaths per day (mainly within ages 45-64), and is one of the 10 leading causes of death worldwide.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces a lower amount of insulin than required, causing a shortage that affects metabolism. This condition is known as type 1 diabetes. On the other hand, when insulin levels are correct, but the cells cannot use it properly in what is known as insulin resistance, the condition is classified as type 2 diabetes.
Finally, gestational diabetes occurs because glucose requirements increase suddenly due to pregnancy. Blood glucose levels typically normalize after pregnancy, but subsequent monitoring is important, as gestational diabetes increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.
Although the risk of diabetes is known to be a genetic factor, the causes are also closely related to obesity, resulting from bad eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. This shows that anyone can contract diabetes even without a family history of it. It is estimated that obese people have up to 7 times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The best strategy for preventing diabetes is to lead a life as healthy as possible, and frequently monitor the behavior of our body against the metabolism of glucose and insulin, especially when there are risk factors and advancing age, not wait for symptoms to appear, by which point the disease will have already developed and is irreversible.
Laboratory tests such as glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) tests allow one to measure the average level of glucose or sugar in their blood during the last three months.
A doctor may recommend a blood glucose test, which measures the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream, or oral glucose tolerance tests, which measure and monitor glucose levels after sugar consumption, among other tests recommended in routine checkups or to confirm a diagnosis. A quality laboratory such as Certolab can carry out these tests. They are very valuable, simple, and affordable.
Type 1 diabetes can be redeemed with medication in some people if caught early. However, these changes are temporary, and the medications cause side effects limiting their use. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with lifestyle changes that primarily help people with obesity lose body weight and increase physical activity. For example, walking 30 minutes a day can decrease the risk of diabetes mellitus by more than 50%.