Diabetes and Mental Health: The Link between Chronic Illness and Psychological Well-being

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Diabetes affects more than 422 million people across the globe and each year, about 1.5 million Diabetes-related death cases are reported. Though Diabetes is a chronic illness and does not have a cure, there are still treatments that help manage the disease.

It’s also important to remember that Diabetes is not something to underestimate and ignore. This disease can affect children, young adults, and older adults. Though there’s still limited research about the exact cause of Diabetes, experts recommend controlling sugar levels and maintaining good physical health to prevent getting Diabetes.

What is Diabetes

Diabetes is a common chronic health condition that affects almost 9.4 percent of the US population and it’s more prevalent in the senior population aged 60-65 years old according to the National Insitute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Additionally, NIDDK stated that 90-95 percent of patients fall under type 2 Diabetes.

Diabetes happens when the pancreas fails to produce or does not produce enough Insulin in your body. Insulin is an essential hormone that helps transfer glucose from the blood into your cells. Glucose refers to the sugar compound we get from the liver and food we eat, which is transferred to the blood and into your cells.

Without enough Insulin, these Glucose compounds cannot be transferred to your cells. And over time, too much glucose in your blood will result in high sugar levels thus causing health problems such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve problems
  • Dental problems
  • Stroke

What are the Type

There are various types of Diabetes, but the most common are the following:

Type 2 Diabetes

This is the most common type of Diabetes that affects almost 95 percent of patients with Diabetes and usually occurs among children, young adults, and older adults. Type 2 diabetes is usually caused by the inability of the pancreas to produce enough Insulin or the poor response of the cells in absorbing glucose from the bloodstream.

Maintaining good physical health like eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and losing excess weight are good remedies to prevent this type of Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

This is a less common type of Diabetes that is caused by the autoimmune response of your body. Autoimmunity refers to the situation wherein your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body by mistake.

In the case of Diabetes type 1, it is believed that autoimmunity is the reason why the pancreas fails to produce the insulin needed for the cell’s glucose absorption. Unfortunately, there’s still no known cure for Diabetes 1, and patients, who are usually children and young adults, need to regularly take insulin to manage the disease.


This type of Diabetes is less serious than type 1 and type 2 Diabetes. However, if not addressed, Prediabetes may progress into Diabetes type 2. Symptoms of this disease are usually mild. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8 in 10 patients don’t realize they have Prediabetes.

The good news though is that this can be managed and reversed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant women are at risk of having Gestational Diabetes. Though this type of Diabetes usually goes away on its own after giving birth, it might still increase one’s risk of type 2 Diabetes later in life.

Women who had Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy may also put their children at risk of obesity and Diabetes when they grow up. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain good physical health by practicing a healthy lifestyle.

Risk Factors of Diabetes

Risk factors may differ for each type of Diabetes. To help you understand if you are most likely at risk of Diabetes, we’ll discuss the risk factors of the four common types of Diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes

Risk factors of type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Smoking
  • High Triglyceride levels (bad cholesterol)
  • Low levels of High-Density Lipoprotein (good cholesterol)
  • History of Gestational Diabetes
  • History of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • History of stroke or heart disease

Type 1 Diabetes

Risk factors of type 1 Diabetes include:

  • History of injury in the Pancreas
  • History of surgery or certain illnesses
  • Exposure to certain viruses that cause illnesses
  • Autoimmune diseases

Gestational Diabetes

Risk factors of Gestational Diabetes include:

  • Being overweight before pregnancy
  • Being 25 years or older

The general risk factors of Diabetes include:

  • If family members have Diabetes, it’s more likely you’ll have it too later in life.
  • African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics have a higher risk of getting Diabetes.

Major Symptoms of Diabetes

General symptoms of Diabetes include:

  • Insatiable thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Easily get infections such as in the gums, skin, and genitals
  • Irritability
  • Slow-healing wounds/cuts
  • Dry mouth
  • Ketones in urine

Note: Symptoms may vary from person to person and may depend on the type of Diabetes the patient has. If you experience the following symptoms mentioned above, it might be time to get checked and tested if you have Diabetes.

Prevention Tips Against Diabetes

Why wait for Diabetes to get into your system if you can prevent it by removing bad habits and practicing healthy habits? In this section, we will share some of the best practices you should follow to reduce your risk of getting Diabetes.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight - Research has found that losing those extra weight helps reduce the risk of Diabetes. This is in line with the findings of a study published in the National Library of Medicine wherein it stated that excess weight contributes to the complications like heart disease and stroke among Type 2 Diabetes patients.
  2. Get more physically active - Keeping up with regular exercise helps maintain good physical health, thus reducing the risk of Diabetes. According to a study, it stated that Physical activity offers benefits to the body’s endothelial function, defense system, and insulin sensitivity, all of which prevent type 1 and type 2 Diabetes. Aerobic and resistance exercises are recommended if you want to establish good physical and cardiovascular health.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet - According to usnews.com, the best diet to practice is the Mediterranean diet which consists of a lot of green vegetables and fruits. It should also include protein-rich foods like chicken and fish for lean and healthy muscles.
  4. Choose healthy fats - Healthy fats, also known as good cholesterol or High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) can be found in fishes like salmon, mackerel, and tuna. It’s also present in various seeds and nuts like sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, etc. You should also avoid junk foods and limit your consumption of red meat and sugary foods to avoid the build-up of bad cholesterol in your body.
  5. Monitor blood pressure - Monitoring your blood pressure at home is a good way to catch symptoms of high blood pressure which is an early sign of Diabetes.
  6. Quit smoking - Habitual smoking will increase your vulnerability to chronic illnesses later in life.
  7. Limit alcohol drinking - Habitual alcohol drinking can damage your organs, thus resulting in poor function of organ systems. Additionally, alcohol has high amounts of calories that may contribute to weight gain and unhealthy fat build-up.
Final Word

Diabetes can be a burden both in physical and financial matters. Not only do you have to endure having diet restrictions, but you also need to spend a lot of dollars on treatments and medications. That’s why it’s important to practice a healthy lifestyle through a healthy diet and regular exercise.

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