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Diabetes: An overview for truck drivers

Truck drivers are at a greater risk of developing diabetes than the rest of the population due to the nature and demands of their jobs. It is safe to say that everyone knows someone or of someone who ...

Truck drivers are at a greater risk of developing diabetes than the rest of the population due to the nature and demands of their jobs. It is safe to say that everyone knows someone or of someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes. It is estimated that 20.8 million people in the United States have some type of diabetes. That is about 7% of the entire population. Although our statistics here in Canada are slightly less than that of the US it is still a very common condition.

What is Diabetes? Basically, diabetes is a disorder of our body’s metabolism, which is the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food that we eat is broken down into different fuels such as carbohydrates, proteins and glucose. Glucose is the form of sugar that is found in our blood and is the body’s main source of energy.

After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is transported to the cells of the body. For glucose to get into the cells, insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, must be present. An easy way to think of it, is that insulin is the key that opens up the doors of our cells to let the glucose in. In people with diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not react appropriately to the insulin that is produced.

As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine and passes out of the body.

There are two types of diabetes that are labeled Type 1 and 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system turns against a part of the body. In this case, the immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Thus, the pancreas has difficulty producing insulin.

A person with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin by injection daily for the rest of their lives. Presently, scientists do not know exactly what causes the body’s immune system to attack the pancreas however, they believe that genetic, environmental and possibly viral factors are involved. This type of diabetes is fairly rare only accounting for 5-10% of the total diagnosed cases. Generally, Type 1 diabetes develops in children and young adults but can appear at any age.

The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes usually develop over a short period. Symptoms may include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, weight loss, blurred vision, and extreme fatigue. If not treated immediately, a person with Type 1 diabetes can lapse into a life-threatening condition called diabetic coma.

As stated earlier, Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1. This form of diabetes is most often associated with older people, obesity, family history of diabetes, and physical inactivity. In fact, about 80% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. It is this form of diabetes that is most important for truck drivers.

As you can see, many of the risk factors for this condition pertain to a large percentage of the truckers on the road.

When Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin, but for some unknown reason the body cannot use the insulin effectively, a condition called insulin resistance. The symptoms of this type of diabetes develop gradually and are similar to that of Type 1, however, some people experience no symptoms at all.

Now that you know what diabetes is and its signs and symptoms, let’s discuss how it is diagnosed. In the olden days, doctors would actually taste their patient’s urine and if it tasted sweet they would diagnose their patients with diabetes.

Luckily for doctors, science has come a long way since those days. The fasting glucose test is the preferred test for diagnosing diabetes in children and non-pregnant adults. In this test, a patient’s blood glucose level is measured after an eight-hour fast. If a person’s blood glucose measurement is greater than a specific level than a diagnosis of diabetes is given.

Another diagnostic test for diabetes is called the oral glucose tolerance test. In this test a blood glucose measurement is taken two hours after drinking a beverage containing 75 grams of glucose dissolved in water.

Unfortunately, before insulin was discovered in 1921 everyone with Type 1 diabetes died within a few years after being diagnosed. Today, lifestyle modifications such as healthy eating, physical activity and taking insulin are the basic therapies for Type 1 diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes must make the same healthy lifestyle modifications as well as take oral medications to control their blood glucose levels.

As you can see people with diabetes must take much of the responsibility for monitoring their own condition.

It is vital that they do not let their blood sugar levels get too low or too high. When blood sugar levels drop too low, a condition called hypoglycemia, a person can become nervous, shaky, confused and even faint.

Diabetes is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in North America. In the later stages of the disease, it can lead to blindness, cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney failure and nerve damage.

Dr. Christopher Singh

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont.

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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