Diabetes occurs when the body is not properly use or produce insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas that breaks down carbohydrates in food. Insulin brings glucose from the blood into the cells, where it is used for energy.
When insulin is not available or the body does not use it properly, blood glucose levels rise. Uncontrolled, high blood glucose levels can cause serious health problems including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, or nerve damage. Keeping your blood glucose level as close as possible to normal (70 to 115 mg/dl before a meal) is the key to having a healthier, energetic life.
Although there are different types of diabetes, the body’s inability to use food properly—is the same. The major types of diabetes are Type I (insulin-dependent), Type II (non-insulin-dependent) and gestational diabetes.
Type I (Insulin-Dependent)
This type of diabetes may develop at any age, most often occurs in children, teenagers or young adults. Symptoms include being very thirsty, hungry, and tired, and needing to urinate often. Children with Type I diabetes rarely have these symptoms for longer than a few weeks before it is diagnosed.
With Type I diabetes, the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. To make up for this lack of insulin, people with Type I diabetes inject themselves with insulin.
Type II (Non-Insulin-Dependent)
The most common form of diabetes, Type II diabetes usually develops gradually with few, if any, symptoms. The pancreas keeps making insulin, however, the body is not using it effectively. This leads to a buildup of glucose in the blood. Often Type II diabetes is diagnosed by tracking a gradual increase in blood glucose levels.
This type of diabetes is discovered through a routine blood test for glucose during the course of a woman’s pregnancy. Closely monitoring blood glucose levels helps women have safe pregnancies and healthy babies. Gestational diabetes usually disappears at the end of the pregnancy, but mothers may be at increased risk for developing diabetes in the future.
Risk Factors for Developing Diabetes
Over age 40
A family history of diabetes
History of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)
High blood pressure or high levels of blood fats (cholesterol, triglycerides)
Women who have had gestational diabetes
Women who have had babies that weighed more than 9 pounds
Once you have diabetes, you have it for life. There is no cure. The disease can be successfully managed by controlling blood sugar through proper nutrition and exercise. A healthy lifestyle also can reduce your risk for developing diabetes.
Warning signs of diabetes
Tingling or numbness in legs or feet
Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
Blurred vision or any change in vision