Diabetes is a disease that’s related to your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Blood glucose provides your cells with the energy they need to function normally. This keeps your kidneys, heart, and other important body systems healthy. Your cells need a hormone produced by the pancreas (insulin) to capture and use blood glucose.
When your pancreas doesn’t make enough or any insulin or your body doesn’t use the hormone appropriately, the glucose remains in your blood and your blood sugar levels climb, but your cells experience none of the benefits.
A quick blood test of your fasting glucose level is often the first step your doctor uses to determine if you may be diabetic. Other diagnostic studies include a glucose tolerance test that measures your blood sugar levels every 60 minutes for three hours after you’ve consumed a sugary drink. Another blood test, the A1c, measures your average blood sugar levels over the previous 2-3 months.
Type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes are most common. Other forms of diabetes exist but are quite rare. If you have type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t produce any insulin due to an immune disorder that destroys insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common form of diabetes and occurs when your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin appropriately. It occurs most often in adulthood and is often related to diet, excess weight, and other lifestyle factors. Genetics may also play a role.
When blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not in the diabetic range, you’re considered to be prediabetic. The good news is, if you lose weight, change your diet, and make other lifestyle modifications, you can return your blood sugar levels to normal and may prevent diabetes from developing.
Treatment varies according to the type and severity of your diabetes and is generally multifaceted. Type 1 diabetics, for instance, must take insulin daily. Type 2 diabetics may need insulin as well or oral medications to help balance insulin and blood glucose levels. All forms of diabetes typically respond very well to lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and a healthy diet.
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