Diabetes is a struggle for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for teens who have it because it seems to conflict with a normal teen lifestyle at every turn. The best way to deal with it is to find out as much as you can, so here are the basics of dealing with it.
What is it?
Diabetes is a condition that makes it difficult for your body to process your blood glucose, which some people called blood sugar. Glucose is necessary for your body, and it gives you energy. However, having too much glucose isn’t healthy.
Normally, an organ called the pancreas produces something called insulin and it helps to take your glucose from your blood to your cells so that it can be converted to energy. With diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, meaning that the glucose just stays in your blood. If it stays that way for too long, it can really damage your body. It’s important to monitor your blood glucose levels and get the levels down when they’re too high.
Why do teens get diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes can be caused by genetic factors or viruses and toxins. With type 1 diabetes, the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed completely, and people with the disease have to get insulin shots every day. While researchers can now predict who is at the highest risk for type 1 diabetes, they are still working to find a way to stop the destruction of pancreatic cells.
Type 2 diabetes, in which the pancreas still makes insulin but the cells can’t use it very well, has been linked to unhealthy lifestyles. People who are overweight, eat unhealthy foods and are not very physically active are at a higher risk for diabetes. There’s also a genetic factor, so people with family members with diabetes are at a higher risk.
How do I take care of it?
The best thing to do is to try to keep your blood glucose levels in a normal range. You can do this by making healthy food choices, eating the right amounts of food, being active, staying at a healthy weight, and of course taking your medicines and checking your blood glucose levels often. This may seem like a lot to remember, but your doctor or a diabetes educator will help you learn how to use a blood glucose monitor, and to know how to deal with the numbers and adjust things accordingly.
You should also know what might make your blood glucose levels abnormal. Illnesses and stress can raise it, and physical activity lowers it (although you don’t want it to get too low either). Certain carbs are more likely to raise your glucose levels quickly than others, like white bread, fruit juice, soda, potato chips, desserts, etc. (Yeah, all of the good stuff. I’m sorry.) Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat milk are much better substitutes.
It’s important to take care of your diabetes to prevent other health problems that can result from not taking care of it. Some of these are serious problems, like heart attacks, strokes or organ damage. By taking good care of your diabetes, though, you can reduce and sometimes avoid these problems altogether.