Salud Saturday – Diabetes, The Silent Latino Killer

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Guest post by Christina E. Rodriguez (@kikisbetes)

At this point in my life, I can say that I was born a diabetic. I was seven years old when I was diagnosed, but they say that by the time you see symptoms of type one diabetes, 90 percent of the cells that make insulin have already been destroyed. Unlike your liver, those cells cannot reproduce themselves, nor can they be saved once they’re endangered. So for all that to happen to a seven-year-old kid, I think I had to have been born with it.

When you have type two diabetes, sometimes it takes years for the symptoms to emerge into something that’s distinguishable from living a normal, healthy life. Sometimes, people end up having heart attacks or cardiovascular problems then being diagnosed. Not the other way around. But the biggest difference between type one and type two is that type two is preventable. With healthy mentalities and cautious eating habits, you can stop this epidemic from sweeping into your life and becoming one of the 18.8 million diabetics in the United States.

Interestingly enough, both types of diabetes have the same effects on your body, but as I explained above, they’re not caused by the same thing. Type one diabetes’ cause is still unknown, although we do know that it’s an autoimmune disease because of the fact that the body’s T-cells are the ones that attack the beta cells that create insulin in the pancreas, therefore stunting one’s abilities to properly digest food, or glucose, and live a normal life. That’s what happened to me. My pancreas has ceased it’s efforts in creating any type of insulin and I am now on an insulin pump.

Type two diabetes is caused by being overweight, eating too much sugary foods and not exercising enough to use all that extra glucose that gets put into the body. Your body is taught to make so much insulin that your cells don’t know what to do with it all and can only take so much. The issue of cells being resistant to insulin is still in question. So where does the sugar go? Down the toilet.

Diabetes means “honeyed urine” or “sweet urine” and is a term that has been used all over the world, from Greece to Asia because the urine overflows with sugar, so much that ants are attracted to it. This happens when the cells are not using the sugar, or glucose, due to the lack of insulin or to the resistance to insulin. This means that the sugar stays in the blood stream, ripping its way through the body’s organs damaging them and making diabetes a multi-organ disease. Eventually the sugar ends up in the urine because it wasn’t being used anywhere else.

Symptoms of both type one and two diabetes are the same. Exhaustion, frequent urination, extreme thirst, dizziness, blurred eye sight and the list goes on. When phrased this way, it does not compare to the feeling you have when you’re going through it. Exhaustion can’t explain the feeling of not being able to get out of bed and having to use the bathroom at the same time. It doesn’t explain the feeling of cotton mouth and being able to feel the dryness in your eyes each time you blink. More severe symptoms include vomiting. According to diabeteshealth.com, a Greek man by the name of Aretaeus in the first century A.D. described diabetes as a disgusting disease where fluids do not stay in the body but only use it as a channel for which to flow out.

At this point, I don’t see it as a disease but a disorder in the body. At times I wish I didn’t have diabetes although I know it’s made me into this person that I am. This blog will sometimes be technical, sometimes be personal but always make an attempt at being informative. I’m doing this because I wish more people would take care of themselves so that they didn’t know what I felt like and what I go through, but hopefully my blogging will open someone’s eyes to the fact that just by changing their lifestyle they can live longer, healthier lives and avoid diabetes or even put it into remission. I, on the other hand, didn’t, don’t and will never have that option.

EDITOR’S NOTE:
Most recent stats about Latinos and Diabetes (Courtesy of the Office of Minority Health):

  • Mexican American adults are 1.9 times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician
  • In 2006, Hispanics were 1.7 times as likely to start treatment for end-stage renal disease related to diabetes, compared to non-Hispanic whites
  • In 2006, Hispanics were 1.5 times as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to die from diabetes

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Christina is a writer who lives in Chicago. She has a Master’s in journalism from the UIUC and writes non-fiction, fiction and poetry. You may find her inspired musings on life, media and music at Mine & Mine Only. Christina is a Type I #diabetic and she writes about living with the disease at the Diabetes Types A Blog.  You may also know her as @kiki416.

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