Diabetes develops when the body either:
Insulin is a hormone that is usually made in the pancreas. It helps your body use the sugars that are in the foods we eat. Glucose gives your body energy, and insulin helps carry glucose to your cells.
If the body doesn't make or use insulin well, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by cells in the body. The body's cells are then starved of energy, despite high blood glucose levels.
Diabetes affects a lot of people. More than 30 million adults in the United States are living with diabetes, yet about 1 in 4 don't know they have it. A recent study estimates nearly half of U.S. adults have diabetes or prediabetes, a condition when blood sugar is elevated but is not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes.
There are three types of diabetes:
There is also growing concern over prediabetes. People with prediabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent or delay the onset of full-blown diabetes.
Some studies find that losing weight—just 5% to 10% of your starting weight—can delay or even reverse prediabetes. For example, if you are 5-foot-11 inches and weigh 200 pounds, try losing 10 pounds as a first step.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that needs to be managed to stay healthy. Over time, too much glucose in the blood can cause serious problems including:
Several things can make someone more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. For example:
Type 2 diabetes is also more common among certain ethnic or racial groups including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders.
It's important to talk with your health care professional about all your personal risk factors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 7 million people in the U.S. have undiagnosed diabetes. While symptoms are often present, some people have no signs of the disease.
Common signs and symptoms include:
Diabetes is diagnosed by taking a detailed medical history, including a report of symptoms, and blood tests that measure the amount of glucose in the blood or how your body handles it.
There are several types of blood tests to check your sugar level:
There are a few things you can do to help manage your diabetes and live a healthier life. It's very important to take steps that will help prevent high blood sugar levels. This is most often achieved through a combination of:
Diabetes treatments aim to:
The American Diabetes Association has set the following blood glucose targets for people with diabetes. Your health care team will work with you to set your personal blood glucose goals and map out a course of treatment that's best for you.
|Target Blood Glucose Levels for Most People with Diabetes|
|Before Meals||70 mg/dL to 130 mg/dL|
|1 to 2 Hours After Start of Meal||Less than 180 mg/dL|
HbA1c/A1c is also used to give an average blood glucose level over the past three months. Target A1c for most people with diabetes should be less than 7%. Talk with your health care professional about your specific goal.
|American Diabetes Association Guidelines|
|Normal||Less than 5.7%|
|Prediabetes||5.7% to 6.4%|
|Diabetes||6.5% or higher|
Your treatment plan will likely include:
❱❱ Making healthier choices overall
❱❱ Taking medications
Several medications are used to help control your blood sugar levels. The type of medicine you take—insulin therapy and/or diabetes medications—will depend on your type of diabetes, as well as other health conditions.
Some medications are given by mouth; others may be given by injection or by using an insulin pen or pump. Many people with diabetes take multiple medications. Some of the newer diabetes medications also have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and related deaths.
❱❱ Ongoing care and monitoring
Taking care of yourself, going to necessary medical appointments, getting lab tests, including a yearly urine test, and knowing your blood glucose number are all important to managing diabetes.
As mentioned, maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active and eating a healthy diet are also key to controlling blood sugar levels and lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Talk with your doctor about:
❱❱ Checking your blood sugar level
Ask your care team how often you need to check and record your blood glucose, and if you should use a glucose meter at home. Knowing your glucose levels can help you and your doctor make decisions about your medicines, meals and exercise regimen.
If your glucose level is not where it should be, changes can be made to your treatment plan. Random blood sugar testing may also be done or recommended when you have symptoms.
❱❱ Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, if needed
❱❱ Knowing what to look for
Ask your doctor about possible complications from diabetes and what to watch for. For example:
Call 911 if you have chest pain, fainting or shortness of breath.
❱❱ Getting immunizations
Ask your doctor about getting vaccinated to help prevent illnesses such as the flu, pneumococcal disease and shingles.
Download: Tips to Keep Diabetes in Check
Managing diabetes is a team effort.
If you also have cardiovascular disease or a high risk of developing heart disease, you will likely be seen by several health professionals including your primary care doctor, an endocrinologist, nurse, dietitian or certified diabetes educator, dentist, eye doctor, foot doctor, pharmacist, and cardiologist.
Make sure to write down questions before each appointment. For example, you might want to ask: