American Diabetes Alert Day!
Many people are confused about what “Diabetes” really means. You may have a Grandmother or Aunt with “Diabetes”, but you also know that kid at school that has to wear the “pump” that gives him medicine to “control his Diabetes”. What is this condition that everyone seems to have and can “Control” us!
To understand Diabetes, we must understand that there is Type I Diabetes, which is mostly diagnosed in the childhood years and is a failure of a body organ that produces Insulin naturally, the Pancreas, so that little to no natural insulin is produced by our bodies. It is thought that maybe an autoimmune disease is associated with Type I Diabetes.
Nonetheless, these young people usually are previously healthy and suddenly their body cannot handle the “glucose” or sugar that they consume in the form of food. So, food is energy and building blocks that allow us to grow and stay healthy. Most Carbohydrates (starches) turn into sugar or “glucose”. Even Fruits and vegetables have sugars called fructose, also used by the body for energy. Most processed foods (fast foods) have lots of sugar and calories that are
“empty” or provide little energy.
Someone with Type I Diabetes must take Insulin either injected or with a pump that provides them a steady stream of insulin throughout the day. People with Type I Diabetes must watch what they eat and check their blood sugar constantly by pricking their finger or wearing a plastic device that checks it for them and displays it on an app on their smart phone.
Now Type II (TWO) Diabetes used to be called “Adult-Onset Diabetes” because it was most common in older folks who quit exercising and eating healthy and they became obese or their bodies wore out and could not metabolize sugar and energy properly. Over time, adults with Type II Diabetes, had “end0organ damage” as the excess sugar build up in their organs, liver, kidneys, eyes, heart, damaged those organs Sugar in large quantities is “toxic” and can cause inflammation in those organs leading to cell death and lots of diseases. That is why old folks with Type II Diabetes also have heart disease, cancers, osteoarthritis, and dementia. Despite our best efforts when someone over age 60 years presents with serious complications of Type II Diabetes, such as Chronic Renal Failure, there is little we can do. That is why Type II Diabetes worldwide is the most common cause of blindness, kidney failure and leg amputations, and many other health conditions.
SO, this is why in Preventive Pediatric Cardiology and Family Preventive Medicine we try so hard to help our patients and their families understand why it is critically important to improve your health while you are young.
Many families ask, “why is my child going to see a Cardiologist at nine years of age,” for example. We explain to them that we are not only interested in their heart, we are providing medical care for the whole person and his/her lifestyle. Some call this lifestyle medicine, integrated medicine or what have you.
Put practice philosophy is that we treat the “Whole Person” and we aim to “treat, educate and prevent” disease before it happens. Type II Diabetes in children and adolescents is a relatively new phenomenon that general pediatricians and pediatric cardiologist were not trained to diagnose and treat simply because we did not see the condition in young people 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, now in our culture with the availability of fast food and “tienditas” on every corner, young people have access to unhealthy foods every day. Our society has also become sedentary as our “Smart” lives are not so smart. We spend an average four to five hours daily staring at a blue screen. We are getting less and less physical activity. Many research studies demonstrate that our young people today are weaker, have less cardio-aerobic fitness and
would fail any simple exercise test for applying to the armed forces or jobs requiring stamina.
We have said often that this is the first generation that will not outlive their parents as life expectancy plummets. We must, we have an obligation to talk to our patients about these issues. Type II Diabetes is only a portal to open the discussion to helping our children improve their lives reaching a balance in their physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental selves. Engage your children today and talk to them about what you do at home and work to improve your
quality of life. Let’s produce a health productive future generation!