Your body obtains glucose from the food you take in, the liver and muscles also supply your body with glucose. Blood transports the glucose to cells throughout the body. Insulin, a chemical hormone, helps the body's cells to take in the glucose. Insulin is made by the beta cells of the pancreas and then released into the bloodstream.
If the body does not make enough insulin or the insulin does not work the way it should glucose is not able to enter the body's cells. Instead the glucose must remain in the blood causing an increase in blood glucose level. This high blood glucose level causes pre-diabetes or diabetes.
Pre-diabetes means that blood glucose level is higher than average but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Having pre-diabetic glucose levels increases risk for developing type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease and stroke. Still, if you have pre-diabetes there are many ways to reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Moderate physical activity and a healthy diet accompanied by modest weight loss can prevent type 2 diabetes and help a person with pre-diabetes to return to normal blood glucose levels.
Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination, being very hungry, feeling tired, weight loss without trying, the appearance of sores that slowly heal, having dry and itchy skin, loss of feeling or tingling in feet, and blurry eyesight. Still, some people with diabetes do not experience any of these symptoms.
Diabetes can be developed at any age. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is also referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It is usually diagnosed in children, teens, or young adults. In this type of diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas are no longer able to produce insulin because they have been destroyed by the body's immune system.
Type 2 diabetes is also referred to as adult-onset diabetes or non insulin-dependent diabetes. It may be developed at any age, including childhood. In this type of diabetes is the result of insulin resistance, a condition in which the body's cells do not interact properly with insulin. At first, the pancreas is able to produce more insulin to keep up with the increased demand for insulin. However, it loses the ability to make up for the body's cells inability to interact properly with insulin with time. The insulin is unable to help the cells take in glucose, this results in high blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. An unhealthy weight contributed by a high calorie diet and lack of physical activity increases the risk for developing this form of diabetes.
African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Asian and Pacific Islanders are at especially high risk for developin Type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes refers to the development of diabetes in the late stages of pregnancy. It is caused by hormones associated with pregnancy and a shortage of insulin. This form of diabetes goes away after the baby is born, but puts both the mother and child at a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes in later life.
Diabetes is a serious disease and when it is not well controlled, it damages the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, gums, and teeth. Having diabetes makes one more than twice as likely as someone without diabetes to have heart disease or stroke.
It is important to keep blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control to avoid the serious complications associated with diabetes. Taking steps to control diabetes can make a large impact in the one's health.
Risk Factors and Prevention
Diabetes is a serious disease with no cure. Controlling blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol can help prevent or delay complications associated with diabetes such as heart disease and stroke. Much research is being done to find ways to treat diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is classified as an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is the result of the body's own immune system, which fights infections, turning against part of the body.
Currently, it is unclear what exactly causes the body's immune system to turn on itself attacking and destroying the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. There are genetic and environmental factors, such as viruses, involved in the development of type 1 diabetes. Researchers are working to identify these factors and prevent type 1 diabetes in those at risk.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight, high blood presure, and abnormal cholestorol levels. Being overweight can contribute to one's body using insulin correctly.
Other risk factors include:
- Having a family history of diabetes, perhaps in a parent, brother, or sister.
- Being of African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American or Pacific Islander, or Hispanic American / Latino descent.
- Having a history of heart disease.
- Having a history of gestational diabetes.
- An inactive lifestyle
Modest changes in lifestyle can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in those at risk. Here are some helpful tips.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight has many negative effects on one's health and can prevent the body from properly using insulin. It also can contribute to high blood pressure. Research shows that even a modest amount of weight loss can reduce one's risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Make healthy food choices. What we put into our bodies has big consequences in our health and how our body functions. Eating healthy helps control body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
- Be active. Find a physical activity you enjoy and that gets your heart pumping, perhaps walking briskly, dancing, or yard work. Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week – research shows that this helps to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Diabetes is sometimes referred to as a "silent" disease because people may not show any signs or symptoms. Symptoms of diabetes include: excessive thirst frequent urination, being very hungry, feeling tired, weight loss without trying, the appearance of sores that slowly heal, having dry and itchy skin, loss of feeling or tingling in feet, and blurry eyesight. Still, some people with diabetes do not experience any of these symptoms.
Symptoms for type 2 diabetes develop gradually, while type 1 diabetes develops more quickly.
Doctors use different tests to diagnose diabetes. Tests to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes include the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test and the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). A random plasma glucose test allows doctors to diagnose only diabetes.
If any of these tests show that you might have diabetes, your doctor will need to repeat the fasting plasma glucose test or the oral glucose tolerance test on a different day to confirm the diagnosis.
Because type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, especially in people who are overweight, doctors recommend that anyone 45 years of age or older be tested for diabetes. If you are 45 or older and overweight, getting tested is strongly recommended.
Older adults are at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, particularly if they are overweight. Doctors recommend that those over 45 years of age be tested for diabetes especially if they are overweight.
Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to pain, disability, and death. Sometimes people have symptoms but do not suspect diabetes. They delay scheduling a checkup because they do not feel sick.
Despite the risk of diabetes due to age and weight status, people often delay having a checkup because they do not feel any symptoms. Sometimes, people experience symptoms do not realize that it may be diabetes. Still, diabetes is a serious disease which, if left untreated, may lead to hazardous complications and even death.
Often times, people are not diagnosed with diabetes until they experience one of its complications, such as heart trouble or difficulty seeing. Early detection can prevent or delay such complications, making checkups all the more important.
There is no cure for diabetes, but with careful control of blood glucose level, as well as cholesterol levels and blood pressure, it can be managed.
People with type 1 diabetes use insulin injections, by shots or an insulin pump, to control their blood glucose levels. People with type 2 diabetes use oral medications, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels. In some cases of type 2 diabetes, a person can use diet and exercise alone to maintain appropriate blood glucose levels.
Managing your blood glucose includes several lifestyle changes. These include:
- Follow a meal plan that makes sense for you and how your body responds to the different foods that you eat.
- Incorporate physical activity into your daily life.
- Take the appropriate diabetes medicine and check your blood glucose levels in a manner that is consistent with your doctors recommendations is also key.
Treatment and Research – Diet and Exercise
Follow a Meal Plan
To keep your blood glucose level in the correct range, it is very important to make healthy choices when it comes to what foods you eat. People with diabetes should have their own meal plan that makes sense with how their body responds to the different type so of food that they eat. If you ask, doctors can give you the contact information of a dietitian or diabetes educator who can help you to construct an appropriate meal plan.
When you develop your meal plan, several things should be considered such as your weight, daily physical activity, blood glucose levels, and medications. A meal plan will help you to achieve a healthy weight for those who are overweight in addition to helping control blood glucose levels. A dietitian can help clarify misconceptions about healthy eating as well as ease you and your family into a plan that fits your goals and lifestyle.
It is not necessary for people with diabetes to only eat particular foods, rather food that are good for everyone are also good for diabetics. Such food includes those that are low in fat, salt, and sugar. Foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables are also great choices. Making healthy choices in your diet will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, control your blood glucose levels, and prevent heart disease.
Get Regular Physical Activity
Staying active is very important for people diagnosed with diabetes. Research has shown better blood glucose levels in older adults and senior citizens who take part in a regular fitness program. Exercise offers many health benefits that are especially important for people with diabetes. It helps you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, promotes insulin functioning to lower blood glucose, strengthens the heart and lungs, and increases energy.
If exercise is new to you, talk with your doctor before you begin. Some exercises, for example weightlifting, may not be safe for people with eye problems or high blood pressure. Ask your doctor to check your heart and feet to make sure you do not have any special problems associated with diabetes. Moreover, ask you doctor to help you find exercises that are safe for you.
Make physical activity a part of your daily life. Go on walks, ride a bike, or garden. Try dancing or swimming, or simply stay active by doing work around the house. Try different activities and look for ways to increase physical activity in your everyday life. Try to get some sort of exercise every day for at least 30 minutes. If you are new to exercising, start slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your exercise.
People with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes use Insulin to lower blood glucose levels. People must take insulin when their body does not take enough of it. Insulin is a liquid hormone that must be injected with shots or an insulin pump.
In many cases of type 2 diabetes, the body makes enough insulin but is not properly used by the body. Diabetes pills are used to correct this problem. Some are taken once daily while others must be taken more often. It is important to ask your doctor or pharmacist how to take your pills. Also, be sure to talk with your doctor if you are experiencing side effects or your pills make you sick. Finally, remember that diabetes pills should be used in addition to a healthy diet and exercise.
Other cases of type 2 diabetes do not require insulin or diabetes pills, rather a healthy diet and regular physical activity will treat their diabetes.
It is important to keep track of your blood glucose levels regularly by using a blood glucose monitor. Logging these levels in a diary may also be helpful to get a better idea of how your treatment is going. Some people must check their blood glucose levels several times a day while others check it once daily. Ask your doctor how often you should test your blood.
Monitoring your glucose levels will help you detect "highs" and "lows." A condition referred to as hypoglycemia results when glucose levels fall too low. When this happens a person may become shaky and confused. If blood glucose levels decrease too much, a person may faint. Following the treatment plan recommended by your doctor as well as monitoring your blood glucose levels can help you avoid "lows." If you check your glucose level and it is too low, you can increase it by taking in sugary foods or drinks like fruit juice.
A condition referred to as hyperglycemia results when glucose levels are too high. If blood glucose is too high, it can cause a person to go into a coma. If you experience persistent "highs," talk with your doctor, you may need to adjust your treatment plan.
ABCs of Monitoring Diabetes
People with diabetes are at especially high risk for developing heart disease and stroke. Because of this, it is very important to monitor your diabetes using your "ABCs."
A. A1C or average blood glucose
B. Blood pressure
The A1C (A-one-C) test is a good measure of what your blood glucose level is most of the time. A test result lower than 7 is positive sign that your diabetes is under control. A test result that is greater than 7 means that blood glucose levels are too high. If your A1C is too high, take action. Talk with your doctor about changing your treatment plan and lifestyle to reach your goal. Lowering your A1C to a healthy level, will help you avoid the complications associated with diabetes such as heart disease and kidney damage.
High blood pressure can lead to stroke, kidney disease, and other complications. Generally people with diabetes want to keep their blood pressure less than 130/80. Have your blood pressure checked at every doctor visit. If it is too high, talk with your doctor about how you can lower it.
Cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, is a fat like substance that builds up in your arteries. If your cholesterol levels are too high it causes your arteries narrow. This can lead to heart disease or a heart attack. People with diabetes should try to keep their cholesterol less than 100. Have your doctor check your cholesterol, and if it is too high talk with him or her about how to reach your cholesterol goal.
Foot and Skin Care
High glucose levels and decreased blood supply to the limbs can cause severe nerve damage and loss of feeling. Unnoticed injuries can contribute to ulcers, which may lead to amputation. Because of this, foot care is very important for people with diabetes. Check your feet every day for cuts, ret spots, sores, infected toenails, and swelling. Report any issues to your doctor, and be sure to have your feet checked at every doctor visit. People with diabetes are more likely to experience skin injuries and infections; for this reason, taking care of your skin is also important.
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