Diabetes- What is diabetes?
Diabetes means that your blood glucose (sugar) is too high. Your blood always has some glucose in it because the body uses glucose for energy; it’s the fuel that keeps you going. But too much glucose in the blood is not good for your health.
Your body changes most of the food you eat into glucose. Your blood takes the glucose to the cells throughout your body. The glucose needs insulin to get into the body’s cells. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas, an organ near the stomach. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood. Insulin helps the glucose from food get into body cells. If your body does not make enough insulin or the insulin does not work right, the glucose can’t get into the cells, so it stays in the blood. This makes your blood glucose level high, causing you to have diabetes.
If not controlled, diabetes can lead to blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations (having a toe or foot removed, for example), and nerve damage. In women, diabetes can cause problems during pregnancy and make it more likely that your baby will be born with birth defects.
What is pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetes means your blood glucose is higher than normal but lower than the diabetes range. It also means you are at risk of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is good news though: You can reduce the risk of getting diabetes and even return to normal blood glucose levels with modest weight loss and moderate physical activity. If you are told you have pre-diabetes, have your blood glucose checked again in 1 to 2 years.
What are the different types of diabetes?
The three main types of diabetes are:
Type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in children and young adults, but it’s a lifelong condition. If you have this type of diabetes, your body does not make insulin, so you must take insulin every day. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin shots or using an insulin pump, making healthy food choices, getting regular physical activity, taking aspirin daily (for many people), and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes — about 9 out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. You can get type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. In type 2 diabetes, your body makes insulin, but the insulin can’t do its job, so glucose is not getting into the cells. Treatment includes taking medicine, making healthy food choices, getting regular physical activity, taking aspirin daily (for many people), and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body generally produces less and less insulin over time. This means that you may need to increase your medications or start using insulin in order to keep your diabetes in good control.
Gestational (jess-TAY-shun-ul) diabetes occurs during pregnancy. This type of diabetes occurs in about 1 in 20 pregnancies. During pregnancy your body makes hormones that keep insulin from doing its job. To make up for this, your body makes extra insulin. But in some women this extra insulin is not enough, so they get gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away when the pregnancy is over. Women who have had gestational diabetes are very likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Who gets diabetes?
About 24 million Americans have diabetes, about half of whom are women. As many as one quarter do not know they have diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes occurs at about the same rate in men and women, but it is more common in Caucasians than in other ethnic groups.
Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, mainly in people who are overweight. It is more common in African Americans, Hispanic Americans/Latinos, and American Indians.
What causes diabetes?
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes —The exact causes of both types of diabetes are still not known. For both types, genetic factors make it possible for diabetes to develop. But something in the person’s environment is also needed to trigger the onset of diabetes. With type 1 diabetes, those environmental triggers are unknown. With type 2 diabetes, the exact cause is also unknown, but it is clear that excess weight helps trigger the disease. Most people who get type 2 diabetes are overweight.
Gestational diabetes — Changing hormones and weight gain are part of a healthy pregnancy, but these changes make it hard for your body to keep up with its need for insulin. When that happens, your body doesn’t get the energy it needs from the foods you eat.
Am I at risk for diabetes?
The risk factors for type 1 diabetes are unknown. Things that can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes include:
Age — being older than 45
Overweight or obesity
Family history — having a mother, father, brother, or sister with diabetes
Race/ethnicity — your family background is African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic American/Latino, Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian
Having a baby with a birth weight more than 9 pounds
Having diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
High blood pressure — 140/90 mmHg or higher. Both numbers are important. If one or both numbers are usually high, you have high blood pressure.
High cholesterol — total cholesterol over 240 mg/dL
Inactivity — exercising less than 3 times a week
Abnormal results in a prior diabetes test
Having other health conditions that are linked to problems using insulin, like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Having a history of heart disease or stroke