Answers About Diabetes

Many Americans think you are only susceptible to diabetes if you eat a lot of sweets. While the consumption of sweets or sugar-laden foods certainly won’t help you decrease your risk, it is not the only cause of the disease. There are many factors that can put you at risk, and it is important to understand how the disease works as well.

Diabetes mellitus is a disease that prevents your body from properly using the energy from the food you eat. Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. Glucose (sugar) provides the energy your body needs for daily activities. When glucose enters your cells, the level of glucose in your bloodstream decreases. Without insulin, glucose cannot get into the body’s cells for use as energy. This increases the levels of glucose in your blood. Too much glucose in the blood is called “high blood sugar” or diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type I diabetes occurs because the insulin-producing cells (called beta cells) of the pancreas are damaged. People with type I diabetes produce little or no insulin, so glucose cannot get into the body’s cells for use as energy. This causes blood glucose to rise.

Type II Diabetes
Unlike people with type I diabetes, people with type II diabetes, produce insulin. However, the insulin produced is either not enough or doesn’t work properly in the body; this causes blood glucose to rise. Type II diabetes is most common in people over age 40 who are overweight. Some people with type II diabetes can manage it by controlling their weight, watching their diet and exercising regularly. Others may also need to take an oral glucose-lowering medication or insulin injections.

Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a high blood glucose level that is discovered during pregnancy. Usually, blood glucose levels return to normal after childbirth. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type II diabetes later in life. The symptoms of diabetes are often sudden and severe. Although the causes of diabetes are unknown, the following risk factors may increase your chance of developing diabetes. If a parent or sibling in your family has diabetes, your risk of developing diabetes is increased. Having hypertension (high blood pressure), or abnormal blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels can put you at a greater risk as well. Your risk of developing diabetes increases progressively as you get older. Your risk of developing diabetes increases if you are a smoker. You are also more susceptible to diabetes if you have a history of gestational diabetes (developing diabetes during pregnancy) or delivery of babies over nine pounds. If you suddenly experience symptoms of increased thirst, frequent urination or unexplained weight loss, you already be in the process of developing diabetes.

There are people who have a normal fasting blood glucose reading, but their blood glucose rapidly rises as they eat. These people may have glucose intolerance. If their blood glucose levels are high enough, they may be considered to have diabetes.

You hold the keys to managing your diabetes by planning what you eat and following a balanced meal plan, exercising regularly, and monitoring your blood glucose and blood pressure levels.