Can You Have Diabetes and Not Know It?

Endocrinologist, Navinder Jassil, MD
Navinder Jassil, MD
Podcast Episode
Deborah Heart and Lung Center Health Report
Diagnosing, treating and managing Diabetes -Pt. 2
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Podcast Episode
Deborah Heart and Lung Center Health Report
Diagnosing, treating and managing Diabetes
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

It was only a century ago that insulin was discovered by a team of scientists at the University of Toronto.

In the ten decades since, their scientific breakthrough has helped save millions of lives as a treatment for diabetes, one of the most prevalent diseases in the world: the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates 1 in 10 adults —over 500 million people — are living with diabetes right now. IDF analysts believe as many as half of them are undiagnosed.

In diabetics, insulin production by the pancreas or utilization by the body is disrupted. Insulin helps manage how the body draws sugar from the bloodstream and distributes it to the cells. If sugar builds up in the blood, it causes a wide range of health problems: damage to the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves, gastrointestinal tract, even gums and teeth.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin and is commonly an autoimmune disorder that people are born with. In Type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin, but later in life no longer recognizes it adequately.

That process is called “insulin resistance,” and can occur in pregnant women when the placenta produces hormones that interfere with the mother's insulin. Such "gestational diabetes" can lead to complications for mother and baby if not managed, but rarely lasts after delivery. Gestational diabetes can be a risk factor for the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Elevated blood sugar is a hallmark of prediabetes, or the earliest stages of disease, when its progression may be prevented through lifestyle choices. The top five risk factors include:

• High blood pressure
• Obesity or high body mass index (BMI), the calculation of height compared to weight
• Poor diet – too much fat and sugar, red/processed meat, too few whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Smoking

Diabetes is surging worldwide, and screening for it in adults age 35 and older is becoming routine, even if no overt symptoms are present.

"Genetics and family history are big reasons why we screen patients for diabetes because we know that there's a strong link," according to endocrinologist Navinder Jassil, MD. "And because the prevalence of diabetes is growing, your primary care doctor will likely screen for it as part of a metabolic blood panel test." Detecting high blood sugar there would prompt further testing and possible treatment.

KYW's Rasa Kaye delves into diabetes with Dr. Jassil, exploring the latest in understanding its mechanisms, how to diagnose, treat, and even prevent it -- and how to live well with it.

To schedule an appointment, visit DemandDeborah.org or call 609-831-4456.