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.

Types of Diabetes

Pre-Diabetes

Pre-diabetes is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose 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, heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. The good news is that if you have pre-diabetes, you can take action now to reduce your risk of getting diabetes.

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.

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.

Gestational Diabetes

This type of diabetes is sometimes experienced in 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.

Metabolic Syndrome

People have metabolic syndrome when they have several disorders of the body’s metabolism at the same time, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. This syndrome (also referred to as “insulin resistance syndrome” and “syndrome X”) affects one out of every five overweight people. By making positive lifestyle changes, you can reduce or eliminate some of the components of the syndrome.

Take Action Now 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.

 

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!


For more information, view answers to frequently asked questions on diabetes.