Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose or blood sugar levels are too high. Glucose comes from the food you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy.
Without careful management, diabetes can lead to a buildup of sugars in the blood, which can increase the risk of dangerous complications including stroke and heart diseases. There are different kinds of diabetes and managing this condition depends on the type. It is important to note that not all forms of diabetes stem from a person being overweight or from leading an inactive lifestyle. Some people are diabetic since childhood.
Diabetes has 3 major types: Type 1, type 2, and Gestational Diabetes.
Type I diabetes: Also known as juvenile diabetes, this type occurs when the body fails to produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent, which means they must take artificial insulin daily to stay alive.
Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body uses insulin. While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. This is the most common type of diabetes that has strong links with obesity.
Gestational diabetes: This type occurs in women during pregnancy when the body can become less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and usually resolves after giving birth.
Less common types:
Monogenic diabetes– Is a condition resulting from mutations (changes) in a single gene
Cystic Fibrosis-Related Diabetes: Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD) shares some features with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In people with CF, the thick, sticky mucus that is characteristic of the disease causes scarring of the pancreas. This scarring prevents the pancreas from producing normal amounts of insulin; so, like people with type 1 diabetes, they become insulin deficient. Their pancreas still makes some insulin, but not enough to stay healthy and maintain good nutrition.
Prediabetes: Doctors refer to some people as having prediabetes or borderline diabetes when blood sugar is usually in the range of 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The prediabetes level means that blood glucose is higher than usual but not so high as to constitute diabetes.
Normal blood sugar levels sit between 70 and 99 mg/dL, whereas a person with diabetes will have a fasting blood sugar higher than 126 mg/dL.
The risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are similar. They include:
- Being overweight
- Family history of diabetes
- Having a high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level lower than 40 mg/dL or 50 mg/dL
- History of high blood pressure
- Having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a child with a birth weight of more than 9 pounds
- History of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Being of African-American, Native American, Latin American, or Asian-Pacific Islander descent
- Being more than 45 years of age
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
Diabetes symptoms vary depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms initially.
In type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly and be more severe. It can develop at any age, though it often appears during childhood or adolescence while Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, can develop at any age though it’s more common in people older than 40.
Some of the signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
Risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes
- The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
- The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Family history.Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
- Although it is unclear why, people of certain races — including black people, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans — are at higher risk.
- Your risk increases as you get older. This may be because you tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as you age. However, type 2 diabetes is also increasing among children, adolescents and younger adults.
- Gestational diabetes.If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes later increases. If you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms), you are also at risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome.For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome — a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity — increases the risk of diabetes.
- High blood pressure.Having blood pressure over 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.If you have low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can let you know what your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are.
Risk factors for gestational diabetes
Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, but some women are at greater risk than others. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- Women older than age 25 are at increased risk.
- Family or personal history.Your risk increases if you have prediabetes — a precursor to type 2 diabetes — or if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has type 2 diabetes. You are also at greater risk if you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, if you delivered a very large baby or if you had an unexplained stillbirth.
- Being overweight before pregnancy increases your risk.
- For reasons that are not clear, women who are black, Hispanic, american Indian or asian are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
People with type I diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes may need to inject or inhale insulin to keep their blood sugar levels from becoming too high.
Various types of insulin are available with most grouped by how long their effect lasts. There are rapid, regular, intermediate, and long-acting insulin.
Some people will use a long-acting insulin injection to maintain consistently low blood sugar levels. Some people may use short-acting insulin or a combination of insulin types. Whatever the type, a person will usually check their blood glucose levels using a finger stick.
How much is too much Insulin?
Insulin helps people with diabetes live an active lifestyle. However, it can lead to serious side effects, especially if a person administers too much.
Excessive insulin can cause hypoglycemia, or extremely low blood sugar, and lead to nausea, sweating, and shaking.
Exercise and diet tips
If a doctor diagnoses a person with type 2 diabetes, they will often recommend making lifestyle changes to support weight loss and overall health.
Steps a person can take to embrace a lifestyle with diabetes include:
- Eating a diet high in fresh, nutritious foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and healthy fat sources, such as nuts.
- Avoiding high-sugar foods that provide empty calories, or calories that do not have other nutritional benefits, such as sweetened sodas, fried foods, and high-sugar desserts.
- Refraining from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or keeping intake to less than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.
- Engaging in at least 30 minutes exercise a day on at least 5 days of the week, such as of walking, aerobics, riding a bike, or swimming.
- Recognizing signs of low blood sugar when exercising, including dizziness, confusion, weakness, and profuse sweating.
People can also take steps to reduce their body mass index (BMI), which can help some people with type 2 diabetes manage the condition without medication.
A Slow, steady weight loss goals are more likely to help a person retain long-term benefits.