Presentation tackles dangers of diabetes

The virtual presentation sounded the alarm about diabetes.

ORANGE, NJ — Orange hosted a virtual presentation, led by East Orange General Hospital clinical dietitian and program coordinator Monika Mahajan and Orange Councilwoman at large Adrienne Wooten, in an effort to spread awareness and educate the community about diabetes, on Thursday, March 25.

“Diabetes is a chronic, life-threatening disease that impacts how your body turns food into fuel,” Mahajan said during the presentation. “It is one of the most preventable but prevalent chronic illnesses in our community. This session is about educating and helping you to understand how you can prevent it if you don’t have it and how you can manage it better.

“Diabetes is metabolic disease in which the body’s inability to produce any or enough insulin causes elevated levels of glucose in the blood, meaning any food that you eat is broken down into glucose, which is nothing but sugar,” she continued. “It then gets absorbed into your bloodstream. Once the glucose is in the bloodstream, the brain tells the pancreas to produce insulin, which is a hormone that helps carry that sugar into the cells in different parts of the body.

The cells only need so much sugar, so whenever there is extra sugar remaining, it goes to your liver and is stored there. If there’s more, it goes to other cells and is stored as fat.”

Mahajan said when there is a constant flow of excess sugar, the body keeps producing more insulin, thinking its cells aren’t getting sugar, and there is extra sugar floating around within the body. Over time, she said, the pancreas gets overworked and will either fail to create insulin or the body gets desensitized to the amount of insulin that’s being produced.

“Think about a lock and key, where insulin is the key,” she said. “The cells are all locked and the insulin acts as a key to unlock the cell and take the sugar elsewhere. When the body becomes desensitized to insulin, that lock and key no longer works. The cells become starved, and the body thinks it’s in constant starvation mode. That is insulin resistance, slowing the metabolism, leading to storage of fat.

It’s recommended that people should be screened every three years, said Mahajan. If your clinician or doctor feels as though you should be screened every year, it’s their decision to make, because they know you better as a patient. If you show up with a blood glucose level of more than 126, then you need a further evaluation. Prediabetes is the condition before you develop full-blown diabetes. One out of three adults has prediabetes. Mahajan said that what’s more alarming is that nine out of 10 adults with prediabetes don’t know they have it.

“But the good news is that research has consistently shown us that, if people have lifestyle intervention — lose weight, exercise and eat healthy — their risk can be reversed, meaning you won’t have prediabetes, and you can have normal blood-sugar levels. However, if you don’t have lifestyle intervention, then 30 percent of those people with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within five years.”

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, is diagnosed mostly in children, although it can develop in adults. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, and gestational diabetes, which affects pregnant women, are two variations of the disease.

“There are about 387 million people living with diabetes, which is a huge number,” Mahajan said. “What’s more alarming is, this number is expected to rise by 2035 by more than 205 million people. On an individual level, it will cost a lot for medical, but on a global level, it will impact the nation. In the United States, we have about 30 million people with diabetes. That means that one out of every 11 people has diabetes, but one out of four don’t know they have diabetes, similar to prediabetes. That’s why it’s more alarming.

“Based on the 2012 statistics … there’s about $245 billion being spent,” she added. “People with diabetes have a 50 percent higher chance of death than people without diabetes.”