Over the years I have often been curious as to why the rate of Type 2 diabetes is increasing and becoming a prevalent condition.

When I first began to research this topic, I believed there should be one answer. I mean there has to be one answer, right? I looked at the increase in consumption of high fructose corn syrup.

I remember thinking, "That is what is causing this condition because this syrup is in everything."

I even went as far as to avoid items with high fructose corn syrup in the ingredients list. I will never forget the first time my boys and I went to the grocery store after I discovered the high fructose corn syrup addition to foods. I sent my youngest child to pick out his cereal, and before he walked to the aisle, I told him that he had to find a cereal that did not have that ingredient. I look back now and laugh because he came back with a very concerned look on his face and said "Mom, all of the cereals have high fructose corn syrup in them, what am I going to eat for breakfast?"

I finally came to the conclusion that there are several reasons, and why I thought there had to be one, I don't know. I assume I wanted a simple answer to be able to educate and help people who are dealing with this condition.

There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction, where the body's defense system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. It usually occurs in adults, but is increasingly seen in children and adolescents. In Type 2 diabetes, the body is able to produce insulin, but it is not sufficient or the body is unable to respond to its effects (also known as insulin resistance), leading to a buildup of glucose in the blood.

Women who develop a resistance to insulin and subsequent high blood glucose during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes tends to occur around the 24th week of pregnancy.

Let's say you were not feeling good. You continued to be thirsty and constantly had a dry mouth. You could not understand why you were always hungry because you ate all of the time and for some reason were losing weight. Of course, you are tired having headaches and blurred vision. You decide to go see a doctor because it just doesn't make any sense to you.

The doctor schedules you to have your blood drawn and tests run to see what is wrong. The results from the test are that you have Type 2 diabetes.

Your doctor explains this to you and has his nurse sit down and tell you how you have to change your life and take medication every day. You have to start eating a healthy balanced meal, count your carbohydrates and test your blood. She also gives you a pamphlet that describes how you should eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruits and fat-free or low fat dairy products. Oh, and, if possible, no processed foods. What? You work all of the time and the only way you can eat is if you carry a box of Little Debbies in your vehicle and grab one while on the run.

For the past couple of years, I have tried to put myself in the place of a diabetic.

My stepfather died in December 2014 with complications, and I am 99 percent sure it was due to diabetic complications. His right and left carotid arteries were blocked at 90-plus percent, and he eventually had triple bypass surgery. He used to always cook the family breakfast; he would make biscuits, gravy, bacon and scrambled eggs. I would always try to encourage him to just eat the bacon and eggs, but he refused.

I will never forget the day my mother called me to come over and help her because my stepfather stood up out of the bed and had fallen on the floor. I lived across the road on their ranch, and I ran as fast as I could. I will never forget when I got to him; his face was on the floor, and he could not move. I picked him up and supported his body between my legs. I looked at his body, trying to figure out what was wrong. I noticed that his left leg and arm were turned inward. I asked him to move his arm, and he could not make it move. I looked at my mother and told her that I believed that he had a stroke and she needed to go and call 911.

I never want anyone to have to suffer the way he suffered. He had a stroke, and for months he was in and out of hospitals. Every time I visited, my heart would break.

It would be hard to find out I had diabetes, and then to have to completely change my lifestyle. So I constantly work on it now by eating healthy, trying to take time to exercise and always encouraging others to do the same.

Harrison and Gregg County are planning an event to educate the public by providing a class that will help people understand, reduce stress and learn to cook diabetic meals. If you would like more information on physical exercise or other programs, call at (903) 236-8429 or e-mail me at tami.putnam@ag.tamu.edu.

— Tami Putnam is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent for Gregg County.

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