What is the main cause of diabetes? Can you suddenly develop diabetes?

What caused me to get diabetes?

Researchers have been puzzling over the answer to this question for decades. They have more leads now than ever before but still not many definite answers. We'll summarize points of what is known and you'll have to try to apply them to yourself.

First, diabetes runs in families; so whether you got it as a child (only 4 to 5 percent of all diabetics do) or later in life, you still had to have some genes that predisposed you to it. Second, some physical or emotional stresses combined with your hereditary tendency and pushed you over the brink into diabetes.

If you got diabetes as a child (the commonest age to be diagnosed is around twelve), recent studies show that a virus related to the mumps virus might have brought on your diabetes by damaging your pancreatic cells that produce insulin (beta cells). Or maybe something went wrong with your immune system and your body itself destroyed some of these cells.

For those diagnosed in mid-life or later, the number one diabetes triggering stress is excess weight. Some 80 to 85 percent of those diagnosed are overweight. Another influence is aging and a general slowing of body functions. In fact, more cases of diabetes are diagnosed after the age of sixty than at any other time of life. Of all people over sixty-five an astounding 30 percent have diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance (they cannot maintain normal blood sugar levels).

Overproduction of certain hormones growth hormone from the pituitary, thyroid hormone, epinephrine, cortisone, and glucagon makes the body's insulin less effective and can also bring on diabetes.

Pregnancy, which makes additional demands on the body, can cause diabetes to develop. In fact, some women show diabetes symptoms during pregnancy but their symptoms disappear after the baby is delivered. Mary Tyler Moore wasn't that lucky. Her diabetes was diagnosed shortly after a miscarriage and from then on she has been insulin-dependent. Surgery or a major illness can activate diabetes. June became diabetic not long after a hysterectomy.

And finally, emotional stress can be implicated. It can be either long-term, grinding stress such as chronic unhappiness with a job or a family situation, or it can be a sudden extreme emotional shock. The well-known author of diabetic cookbooks, Jeanne Jones, became diabetic almost immediately after her husband was killed in an automobile accident.

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