What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose, which is the body’s main source of fuel. Glucose then moves into the bloodstream, where it is used by the cells for energy and growth. In order for glucose to move into the cells, the hormone insulin must be present. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, an organ behind the stomach. In diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin, or the body cannot use the insulin that is being produced (insulin resistance).

The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, but it appears that genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise play a role.

Why is it so important to prevent diabetes?

Prevention of diabetes, or of further complications if you already have diabetes, can help you to live a healthier and longer life. High blood glucose levels can lead to blindness, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and other serious health problems, including death.

For more information on diabetes and how to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, explore this website and the many others listed throughout the website. Take action now with the 1-2-3 action steps!

What is pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having pre-diabetes puts you at a higher risk for developing diabetes, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other serious health problems. The good news is that if you have pre-diabetes, you can take action now to reduce your risk of getting diabetes.

What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?

Many people have diabetes and do not know it because symptoms can be so mild. Symptoms may include some or even all of the following:

If you have any of these symptoms, report them to your healthcare provider. If you don’t have a healthcare provider and you live in Lancaster County, Nebraska, call 402-441-8065 for information on how to find one.

How do I know if I am at risk for developing diabetes?

Any of the following may put you at risk for developing diabetes:

What is type 1 diabetes?

Also called insulin-dependent diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset diabetes), type 1 diabetes develops when the body’s immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that make the hormone insulin that regulates blood glucose. It was previously thought that only children developed this type of diabetes, but we now know that people of all ages can develop it. People with this type of diabetes must take insulin every day.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the body fails to use insulin properly (insulin resistance) and eventually is not able to make enough insulin. It was once thought that only adults got this type of diabetes, but now it is being diagnosed in children and adolescents.

Risk factors for this type of diabetes include older age, being overweight, not exercising, and having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

With lifestyle changes such as eating healthy and increasing activity, this type of diabetes can often be prevented or delayed. Some people with type 2 diabetes need to take an oral medication, while some take daily insulin injections to control it.

What is gestational diabetes?

This type of diabetes is sometimes experienced during pregnancy by women who have not had diabetes before. It is thought to be caused by pregnancy hormones, which decrease insulin production by the pancreas. Having gestational diabetes may put you at risk for developing diabetes.

What is a normal blood glucose (sugar) number?

Whether or not a blood glucose number is considered normal depends on a number of things, including the circumstances surrounding the test. The most accurate way of determining blood glucose levels is by testing when a person has not had anything to eat or drink for 2–6 hours. This is called fasting blood glucose.

Is there a cure for diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong illness that has no cure at present. Diabetic medications such as insulin do not cure it, they simply help to control it. Healthy eating and regular physical activity are very valuable tools in helping to manage diabetes and prevent health problems.

What medication should I take for diabetes?

Your doctor will determine which medications are best for you. Some people are able to take oral medications for diabetes, while some must take daily insulin through either injections or an insulin pump.

Do all people with diabetes take medication for it?

Not all people with diabetes need to take medication for it. However, it is important for all people with diabetes to eat healthy and exercise to help prevent the serious health problems that can occur when diabetes is not managed appropriately.

What is A1C?

A1C is a blood test that measures average blood glucose (sugar) level over the past three months.

See www.diabetes.org

What should my cholesterol number be?

What is BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index and is a measure of your body weight relative to your height. BMI is used to determine whether you are underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.

See www.nhlbi.nih.gov

What kinds of foods should I eat?

The best way to give your body the balanced nutrition it needs is to eat a variety of foods daily in the amounts that your body needs to maintain a healthy weight, such as the following:

For more information on healthy eating, explore this website along with the other websites listed.

Can I eat carrots, grapes, and watermelon?

Yes, almost all nutritious foods can be included in a healthy meal plan, even for a person with diabetes. It is important to eat all foods in the amounts that your body needs to maintain a healthy weight.

Should I exercise and how do I start?

Everyone needs to be physically active. Even small steps in the right direction count toward good health. See your doctor before starting an exercise program. For tips on how to begin an exercise program, see Physical Activity Resources on this website.

My doctor told me that I have a “touch of sugar” and to “watch” my sugar. What does this mean?

The fact is, you either have high blood glucose (sugar) levels, or you don’t. Your doctor may be referring to pre-diabetes. Ask him to clarify this for you, and ask how you are to “watch” your sugar. If you do, in fact, have high blood glucose (sugar) levels, or are at high risk for developing diabetes, ask your doctor how you need to proceed to either prevent or delay diabetes, or to manage it if you have it already. See What Is Diabetes? in this section.

Do parents need to worry about their children developing type 2 diabetes?

In years past, children who were diagnosed with diabetes mainly had type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile-onset diabetes. Currently, children and youth under age 25 are developing type 2 diabetes, largely because of increasing rates of overweight and obese children along with decreasing levels of physical activity. See What Is Diabetes? in this section.

How many people have been diagnosed with diabetes?

According to the latest available data (2013 Lancaster County Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey), it is estimated that between 17,000 and 18,000 adults of Lancaster County have been diagnosed with diabetes. Analysts believe that there are another 5,000–6,000 adults who have diabetes, but have not yet been officially diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional.

For the United States, the 2012 estimate of persons with diabetes is over 29 million.

The population “at risk” for developing diabetes is much larger than those who already have diabetes. Conservative estimates based on the body mass index (BMI) indicate that it is likely that more than 50,000 adults of Lancaster County, Nebraska, are at risk for developing diabetes because they are overweight or obese and don’t exercise.

How many Lancaster County residents have pre-diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes?

Based on 2013 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey results, as many as 5,000-6,000 Lancaster County residents aged 18 and older have a condition called pre-diabetes, which is blood glucose (sugar) levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes. Persons with pre-diabetes are at high risk for developing diabetes. See High-Risk Groups.

How many people are newly diagnosed with diabetes each year?

The population at risk for developing diabetes is much larger than that already identified as having diabetes. Conservative estimates based on the body mass index (BMI) indicate that it is likely that more than 55,000 adults of Lancaster County, Nebraska, are at risk for developing diabetes because they are overweight or obese and don’t exercise. See High-Risk Groups for other risk factors of diabetes.

For a Diabetes Dictionary, please see the following website: www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/a-z.asp.