Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a disease that is associated with the body’s inability to regulate and normalize blood glucose levels due to the inability of the pancreas to produce enough of a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s main function is to turn blood glucose into energy for the body to use, and insulin production levels vary by affected individuals. Diabetes is categorized into different conditions or types, each condition having their own underlying causes. Preventable diabetes conditions include prediabetes and gestational diabetes, whereas chronic conditions include type 1 and type 2 diabetes. All types, if left uncontrolled, can cause an excess of sugar in the blood that may lead to serious health complications in the future, such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, complications of the eye (glaucoma, cataracts, etc.), kidney disease, and high blood pressure.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas produces very little or no insulin. The cause of this condition is unclear; however, scientists believe it is caused by genetic and environmental factors, such as viruses. Only 5% of individuals that are diagnosed with diabetes have type 1, and this condition typically affects children and young adults, previously being referred to as juvenile diabetes.
Since the body is not capable of breaking down sugars and starches to turn into glucose, those who are affected by this disease must self-administer insulin with an insulin pump or pens/syringes multiple times a day. Affected individuals must also monitor their blood glucose levels frequently in order to avoid hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.
What is Prediabetes/Type 2 Diabetes?
Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, typically due to poor dietary choices and a sedentary lifestyle. Having prediabetes causes a spike in insulin production as a way to process excess sugar; the pancreas does this as an attempt to keep blood glucose levels normal. Eventually, the pancreas will no longer be able to keep up with insulin production, also known as insulin resistance. Once this happens, the onset of type 2 diabetes will begin.
Over time, having type 2 diabetes puts you at an increased risk for health complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and nerve damage due to the buildup of glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is typically irreversible, depending on how long you’ve had the condition, how severe it is, and your genetics. However, it can be managed with oral medication, insulin, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Did you know?
In the United States alone, approximately 84 million individuals have prediabetes and 9 out of 10 of those individuals don’t know they have it. Could you be one of them?
Symptoms of Diabetes
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Extreme fatigue
- Cuts and bruises heal slowly
- Feeling thirsty
- Feeling hungry (even after eating)
- Type 1 - weight loss (even when eating normally)
- Type 2 - tingling, pain, or numbness in limbs
Who’s at Risk for Prediabetes/Type 2 Diabetes?
- are overweight (adults with a BMI of 25+)
- are 45 years or older
- have a family history of type 2 diabetes
- are physically active less than three times a week
- have ever had gestational diabetes or have given birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds
- have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Could you have prediabetes? Take the free, one-minute risk assessment to find out. If you have any of the symptoms or meet any of the at-risk criteria, contact your doctor to discuss the possibility of having diabetes and schedule an appointment for testing.
How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
If you have prediabetes, some changes can be made to reverse and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The necessary steps of prevention include losing 5% - 7% of your body weight, eating healthy, and increasing physical activity to at least 150 minutes per week. Making these lifestyle changes can be hard, but there are resources available (such as the Diabetes Prevention Program) that will help you make the necessary changes to living a happier, healthier, diabetes-free life.
What is the Diabetes Prevention Program?
The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is a year-long lifestyle change program, available in-person or online, and was developed for those who have prediabetes with the goal of preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes. The DPP is an evidence-based program that is proven to produce positive outcomes and results, but it takes time, hard work, and dedication. Classes are led by a trained lifestyle coach that will help you make necessary changes in areas such as healthier eating, stress reduction, and becoming more physically active.
Other Diabetes Management Resources
If the DPP isn’t right for you, or if you already have diabetes, click here to find a general diabetes education program near you.
If you have diabetes and cannot afford traditional diabetes management programs, there are some free resources available that may help you begin making the necessary changes to manage your diabetes.
- Living with Type 2 Diabetes – Free Educational Series: Topics include: blood glucose education, coping with diabetes, nutrition basics, grocery shopping, managing stress, and more.
- AADE’s Resources for People Living with Diabetes: Resources that cover concepts such as blood glucose monitoring, insulin injections, medication, lifestyle resources, and more.
- ADA’s Diabetes 24/7: A system that allows you to manage personal health records, also allowing users to track and share data related to their diabetes with their doctors, pharmacists, family members, or a school nurse. This program helps track specific data, such as blood glucose, A1C, physical activity, weight, blood pressure, and more.
- SCPH's Grocery List for Healthy Living: Basic grocery list that can help you make choices that will support a healthier diet.
- SCPH’s How to Make a Healthy Meal Guide: A simple guide that will help you create a balanced meal, including the appropriate portion sizes.
- SCPH’s Guide to Measuring Blood Sugar: A guide that covers basic blood sugar measurement and management practices.
* These resources are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding medical conditions. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.