Diabetes (part 1)
AHHHHH!!! My doctor just told me I have diabetes! What does that mean? What can I do?
Take a breath. This is a heavy diagnosis, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. There are lots of ways to help you live a long, rewarding life. The first step is just understanding what diabetes really is, not what your mother-in-law and 4th cousin told you. Let’s break it down.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the two kinds: Diabetes Type 1 and Type 2. No, they aren’t the same, they don’t work the same, and they are treated differently. But they have something the same or they wouldn’t both be called diabetes, right? What they have in common is that they mess with your blood sugar and make it too high.
Wait. Blood sugar? I have sugar in my blood?!
Yup. Just about every cell in your body needs sugar to live. They use the sugar to turn into energy to keep themselves going. The organ most dependent on sugar is ……. Your brain. The brain cannot use anything else to make energy. That’s important because if you don’t have enough sugar in your blood, your brain starts having trouble working right. You get woozy and act weird and could even pass out. The same thing goes if it gets TOO much sugar. Your brain says “Woah! Too much! Get this out of here!”
If the brain and all of my cells need sugar, why don’t I want high blood sugar?
Organs can only use up so much sugar. If there’s too much sugar floating around in your blood, it can start damaging things. Especially the kidney. Your kidneys are responsible for getting that sugar out. They dump the sugar in your urine (yup, you pee out the sugar; in fact if you tasted your pee it would be really sweet). Those sugar crystals tear up the kidney on their way out. So, overall, we have sugar crystals flinging themselves throughout your body, scratching up cells and blood vessels, then tearing up your kidneys on their way out.
Yikes! But I thought cells wanted sugar. Why don’t they just suck it up?
That’s where the Diabetes part comes in. In both types of diabetes, you have a magical chemical your body needs to suck up that blood sugar and actually use it. For Type 1 diabetes, the person literally doesn’t make the magic chemical at all. For Type 2, for a variety of reasons, the magic chemical isn’t working. The magic chemical? Insulin.
So there’s the first part you need to know about Diabetes. These are the basics. What everyone kinda has in common. In the next few weeks we will cover the 2 types and what it means to have this one or that one.