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Understanding Diabetes

According to the CDC, around 34.2 million Americans are currently diagnosed with diabetes. Since approximately one in ten Americans have diabetes, most people are likely to know at least someone who has been diagnosed. Many questions revolve around this health condition, and we aim to help clarify what exactly diabetes is and provide readers with ways to prevent as well as manage this condition. To diagnose someone with diabetes, their blood sugar level must be tested. If one’s blood sugar is too high, then they can be diagnosed as prediabetic or diabetic. There are multiple kinds of diabetes. The most common types being type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.


Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes can happen to anyone at any time. When someone says they’re a type 1 diabetic, it means their body does not produce insulin. Without insulin, blood sugar builds up in your bloodstream since it can’t enter your body’s cells to be used for energy. This buildup of blood sugar leads to type 1 diabetes.


Less than 10% of people with diabetes have type 1. It isn’t known for sure how people develop type 1 diabetes. Experts speculate that it is a result from an autoimmune reaction that kills the insulin-creating cells in the pancreas.


The CDC reports that specific genes put some people at a higher risk for developing diabetes, but this doesn’t mean that they will develop diabetes if they have the genes.


It can be quite some time before the body starts showing symptoms of type 1 diabetes, and they can appear suddenly. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), these symptoms are:

  • Blurry Vision

  • Frequent Urination

  • Feeling very thirsty and hungry

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Wounds or bruises that heal slowly

  • Weight loss despite eating more

Type 1 diabetes can be managed with insulin shots or by wearing an insulin pump to make sure the blood sugar isn’t building up too much in your blood stream. Another key part of managing type 1 diabetes is checking blood sugar levels regularly. A doctor should create a plan for you that outlines how often you should be checking your levels as well as what the target levels are.


Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is what over 90% of diabetics have. This occurs when the body doesn’t use the insulin it creates properly. The cells don’t respond to the insulin, and your pancreas keeps producing it. This makes your blood sugar rise, which can lead to prediabetes and eventually type 2 diabetes if not acted upon.


Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can occur over several years or not at all. This is why it is important to know the risk factors of type 2 diabetes so you can be hypervigilant in preventing the onset of this condition.


People with these traits are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within their lifetime:

  • Are prediabetic

  • Overweight

  • 45+ years old

  • Directly related to someone with type 2 diabetes

  • Are not physically active three or more times a week

  • Have had gestational diabetes

Similarly to type 1, type 2 diabetes should be managed with monitoring blood sugar levels and medication such as insulin therapy. CDC also highly recommends those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and even incorporate a weight loss plan if necessary to try and maintain manage this condition.


Prediabetes

Prediabetes occurs when someone’s blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. The CDC reports that 88 million American adults (more than one in three) have prediabetes. And almost 85% of these adults aren’t aware they have prediabetes. When you have this condition, you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and having a stroke.


The same risk factors that apply to type 2 diabetes also apply to prediabetes. If you or a loved one has any of these factors, it is important to have blood sugar levels tested to help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.


A lifestyle change can be crucial in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes once diagnosed with prediabetes. Eating healthy, being regularly active, losing a small amount of weight, and managing stress in your life can all be beneficial in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these health conditions, it is important to be informed of what they mean and the ways to manage them. Meeting with a doctor will help provide you with a management plan: medications that will help, ways and how often to check blood sugar levels, and lifestyle changes to help life a healthier life. It is important to stay on top of managing one’s diabetes and be proactive in preventing the onset of this condition, such as eating healthily and staying active!


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