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Judy Bluehorse Skelton

What is Diabetes?

Although there are three types of diabetes; Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational diabetes, we will be focusing on Type 2 diabetes among American Indian/Alaska Native people.

According to published data and information; the number of American Indian/Alaska Natives over the age of 20 years and use Indian Health Clinic Services approximately 15.1% of American Indian/Alaska Natives has diabetes.  There are over 550 federally recognized tribes so the number of people diagnosed with diabetes is different for each tribe/band/village.

Diabetes used to be found among people between the ages of 40 and 50 years called adult onset diabetes, but in recent research more AI/AN youth are being diagnosed with diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease with lifestyle changes.

How does diabetes occur?

Type2 Diabetes – Our source of energy comes from the chemical glucose a type of sugar.  When we eat carbohydrates our digestive system turns the carbohydrates into glucose.  Most carbohydrates have sugar and starch; such as rice, pasta, grains, potatoes, fruits, and some vegetables.  Once the digestive system breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose, it is released into the bloodstream.  A chemical hormone, insulin is released by the pancreas to meet the glucose.   Together they enter the cells in our muscles and brain, but if our bodies do not make enough insulin, resists the insulin, or insulin doesn’t function normally our blood glucose levels become high causing us to have diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is much harder to diagnose and because of that you can have diabetes for seven years before being diagnosed.

Type 1 Diabetes – Also known as insulin dependent diabetes because you lose the ability to make insulin and Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood, but can occur later in life.  People with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin injections every day.

What are the signs of diabetes?

• Always thirsty

• Needing to urinate often throughout the night

• Feeling hungry

• Feeling exhausted/fatigued

• Unexplained weight loss

• Wounds that heal slowly

• Loss of feelings In the feet/Tingling in the feet

• Dry itchy skin

Why should I be concerned?

Type2 diabetes can lead to serious problems in your eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums and teeth, and blood vessels. If left untreated you can lose your eye sight, your nervous system can be damaged, develop heart disease, kidney failure, or amputation of limbs.