Glucose is the primary source of raw energy for our bodies. Just about everything we consume is eventually metabolized to Glucose. It circulates in our bloodstream at a level that provides sufficient reserves in the event we need an immediate power boost.
However, the hormone Insulin allows our cells to remove the circulating Glucose from our blood. Without Insulin, Glucose continues to build up in the circulatory system, causing damage to blood vessel walls, and, if the level becomes high enough, clogging capillaries. A dangerously-elevated level of Blood Glucose is referred to as Hyperglycemia. Left untended, it leads to organ failure and death. This is what people with Diabetes must deal with.
Some people lose the ability to make their own Insulin (usually when they are young) and must inject periodic doses calculated to meet current levels of Blood Glucose. That is referred to as Type 1 Diabetes. In the absence of supplemental Insulin, a person with Type 1 Diabetes will suffer with complications from a diminished cardiovascular system, usually leading to death in about 10 years. Until the introduction of injectable Insulin in the 1920s, most people with Diabetes Type 1 never reached the age of 25.
However, in Type 2 Diabetes, Insulin production is not the problem. Most people with Type 2 produce adequate, if not excessive, amounts of Insulin. While the outcome is similar to Type 1, Hyperglycemia leading to imminent organ failure and death, it is due to the body cells’ inability to recognize and utilize the Insulin produced (Insulin Resistance), allowing the accumulation of both Glucose and Insulin in the bloodstream.
The cause of Insulin Resistance is a bit complicated, and the simplest way to explain would be to blame it on excessive levels of Triglycerides and other fats in the blood. These fats interfere with the Insulin receptors of a cell, disabling the process for transporting needed Glucose through the cell wall. When Insulin levels are elevated, that can lead to a variety of undesirable results:
- Difficulty thinking and maintaining focus
- Drowsiness, especially after eating
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Increased risk for heart disease
Insulin Resistance can be treated with medications (primarily Metformin), but even with that and the Triglyceride medication, modified diet, and regular exercise, I am still plagued with elevated Blood Glucose and Triglycerides. I can’t imagine how terrible my levels would be if I stopped all these annoying, but necessary, things.
My own father did not start to address his condition until he was almost 70 years old. I believe it was the death of his older brother from complications of Diabetes that finally motivated him to do something about his own health. Even with medications, his liver became cirrhotic, causing painful edema, and he was not able to fully enjoy his life. He died a few days before his 75th birthday.
My hope is that starting at a younger age will forestall what I call “the ticking time bomb” from doing me in. For now I shall endeavor to maintain my altered lifestyle in order to stay healthy enough to work on researching this genetic medical condition I (and other family members) inherited from my great-grandfather, Aron Shamberg.