WHAT IS DIABETES?
WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes is a chronic illness that inhibits your body’s ability to use food as energy. Instead of processing blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) and using it as energy, diabetes allows your body to build up sugars in your blood and can increase your chances for serious health complications such as heart disease and stroke.
When it comes to understanding diabetes <link to new “understanding diabetes” page, it is important to understand the role insulin plays in your body and why managing your diabetes <link to new “managing your diabetes” page is critical.
WHAT IS INSULIN?
Insulin is a hormone produced in your pancreas that ensures that the glucose from the foods you eat enter the cells so that it can be utilized for energy. If your body doesn’t make enough insulin – or doesn’t make any insulin at all—or doesn’t use insulin properly, then glucose builds up in your blood and can result in adverse conditions.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DIABETES?
There are three major diabetes types:
- Type 1 diabetes – also known as juvenile diabetes – develops when your body doesn’t produce insulin. In fact, your immune system actively destroys the cells in your pancreas designed to create insulin. Therefore, people with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin <link to new “insulin management” pillar page>every day in order to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, but can be diagnosed at any age.
- Type 2 diabetes – occurs when your body doesn’t make enough insulin, or doesn’t use it well. Family history of diabetes, obesity, lack of physical activity and poor diet all are contributing factors to Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be diagnosed at any age, but typically occurs in middle-aged and older adults.
- Gestational diabetes – develops in pregnant women when the mother’s body is unable to keep up with the insulin demand as the hormones from the placenta cause an increase in blood glucose levels. Gestational diabetes can typically be controlled through a healthy diet <link to new “healthy eating for people with diabetes” page & exercise and can be resolved post-pregnancy. Half of the women with gestational diabetes will later develop type 2 diabetes.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF TYPE 1 DIABETES?
Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite
- Blurred vision
- Unintended weight loss
- Moodiness and irritability
Type 1 diabetes symptoms can have a rapid onset—within even just days or weeks—and should be taken seriously. Be sure to consult your doctor if you notice these symptoms either in yourself, your child, or a loved one.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR DIABETES?
Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes include family history, genetics and age (usually diagnosed in children at peak times between 4 and 14 years old), although diagnosis later in life is possible.
Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include family history along with race such as African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.
In addition, there are avoidable risk factors that include sedentary lifestyle (exercising very little or not at all, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and high fat in the blood (triglycerides).
Reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes can be accomplished by making lifestyle changes including diet & fitness<link to new “Fitness for People with Diabetes” page> routines.
HOW DO I MANAGE MY DIABETES?
The best way to manage your diabetes <link to new “Managing Your Diabetes” page” is to keep accurate records of your blood glucose levels. You can use diabetes testing supplies such as a fingerstick, a test strip and a blood glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to track your numbers, followed by a self-administered injection of insulin, or you can choose to use an insulin pump to administer your insulin <link to new <Insulin Management page>. By making a habit of recording each result, you will see how the insulin or medication you take, different foods, and activities affect your blood glucose levels.
Consult with your healthcare professional to determine what is best for you.
ARE THERE COMPLICATIONS FROM DIABETES?
- Diabetes-related health complications include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Nerve damage
- Circulation problems
- Damage to the small blood vessels in the brain which can lead to vascular dementia
- Sleep apnea <link to new “sleep apnea pillar” page>
The good news is that by taking proper steps to manage your blood glucose levels, such as following healthy eating for diabetics <link to new “healthy eating for diabetics” page> and adopting fitness for diabetics <link to new “fitness for diabetics” page> habits, you can improve your overall well-being and better manage your diabetes.
HOW WILL DIABETES AFFECT MY LIFESTYLE?
While living with diabetes <link to “Living with Diabetes” page> involves keeping an eye on your blood glucose levels and ensuring timely delivery of insulin, there are other ways you can improve your quality of life with diabetes.
From a lifestyle perspective, you can still enjoy all the activities and entertainment you’re accustomed to, and may find that adding new interests to your routine also adds a wonderful new element to your daily life.
Advice on fitness for people with diabetes <link to new “Fitness for People with Diabetes” page> is not vastly different than general advice on healthy living for all. The added benefit for you, however, is that by adding just 30 minutes of exercise per day, 5 days a week, to your daily routine, you just might find managing your diabetes gets easier!
Activities such as walking, hiking, biking, swimming, yoga, tennis, basketball, and even dancing can serve to improve your overall health and fitness and aid in keeping your blood sugar levels in range.
There are numerous tools and tips for people with diabetes, to ensure a happy and healthy diabetes management lifestyle, the key is to continue seeking information from trusted authorities on the subject.
WANT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DIABETES?
While diabetes calls for daily monitoring of your blood sugar levels and properly administering your medications, making good choices when it comes to your lifestyle – healthy food choices, exercise and physical activity – there are numerous diabetes resources to help you on your journey.
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