More Stories

Your Salud





The Silent Killer
Author: Adrian Ponce-Rojas





“Having diabetes is like having a scar on your 
face, it will stay there and will never go away. If I 
had diabetes, I would always be thinking of how I 
would die, or what would happen if I could not eat 
what I usually eat.”	  — Cesar Froylan

Diabetes, so many of us can have it but we may not 
even know. It can often go undiagnosed because many of 
its symptoms are harmless. There are 20.8 million 
people in the U.S that have diabetes and nearly one 
third (6.2 million) of them are not aware they have 
it. That means 14.4% of the people in the U.S. have 
diabetes, and by 2020, scientists believe that, over 
50% of the U.S. population will have diabetes. 
Diabetes can sometimes be deadly if it is not treated 
on time.  

Diabetes is a disease that happens when the body does 
not produce enough or properly use insulin. Insulin is 
a hormone that is used to break down sugar, starches 
and other foods into energy, which is needed for your 
daily life. The cause of diabetes is still a 
scientific mystery even though genetics and 
environmental factors such as obesity and lack of 
exercise are two big contributing factors.  

There are many types of diabetes, but the major types 
are Type I and Type II diabetes. Type I diabetes is 
caused by the body failing to produce enough insulin. 
About 5-10% of Americans that have been diagnosed have 
Type I diabetes. Type II diabetes is caused by the 
body not using insulin properly. Type II diabetes is 
more common in the U.S. 

In most cases of Type I diabetes, people have to 
inherit risk factors from both of their parents. 
Researchers want to find out what other environmental 
triggers are. One trigger might be cold weather. Type 
I diabetes is developed more in the winter than in the 
summer, and is most common in colder climates. Another 
trigger might be viruses. A virus that has only mild 
effects on most people can trigger Type I diabetes. A 
way to stop Type I diabetes is by having a healthy 
diet at an early age. It is less common in people who 
were breastfed and ate solid foods at later ages. In 
many people, the development of Type I diabetes takes 
many years. 

There are risks when you have diabetes. If you are a 
man with Type I diabetes, the odds of your child 
getting diabetes are 1 in 17.  If you are a woman with 
Type I diabetes, and your child was born before you 
were 25, your child’s risk is 1 in 25; if your child 
was born after you turned 25, your child’s risk is 1 
in 100. Your child’s risk is doubled if you developed 
diabetes before you were 11 years old.  If both you 
and your spouse have Type I diabetes, the risk is 
between 1 in 4 and 1 in 10. 

Type II diabetes is caused by the genetic passing of 
the disease, but it is caused more so by environmental 
factors. A family with a history of Type II diabetes 
is one of the strongest risk factors to getting that 
disease. Type II diabetes is more common in people 
that eat too much fat and simple carbohydrates and too 
little fiber, and don’t get enough exercise. One 
strong risk factor is obesity. Obesity is more risky 
for young adults and for people that have been 
overweight for a long time. Type II diabetes runs in 
families. Another cause is due to children learning 
bad habits, eating a poor diet and not exercising. 

Can people die from diabetes? I asked Dr. Lawrence 
Hammer, who works in Mountain View and the Stanford 
University School of Medicine, some questions about 
diabetes. He said, “People die from diabetes for two 
reasons, either from the diabetes itself or from its 
complications. Diabetes itself can cause death from 
abnormal blood sugar leading to convulsions, coma, and 
death. Complications caused by diabetes can also lead 
to death, especially kidney disease and heart failure 
both of which are caused by a number of factors 
including uncontrolled diabetes.” 

Can you get rid of diabetes or control it? “The best 
way to get rid of type II diabetes is to lose weight 
and stay physically active and on a healthy diet. 
Medications can be used to help control it but can’t 
cure it. There is no known cure for it. Type I 
diabetes can be controlled using insulin injections. 
There is no known cure for it, although scientists are 
trying to find a way to transplant healthy pancreas 
tissue into the pancreas of patients with type I 
diabetes, thereby giving them a way to produce insulin 
again,” answered Dr. Hammer. 

Diabetes has been a huge epidemic in the U.S. for a 
long time and the only ways for people to stop 
themselves from getting diabetes is to exercise and to 
eat healthier. That is the pathway to a healthy life. 
However, be aware that diabetes not only occurs in 
overweight people, it can happen to everyone.