In general, people with diabetes either have a total lack of insulin (type 1 diabetes) or they have too little insulin or cannot use insulin effectively (type 2 diabetes). If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems.
- Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes), accounts for 5 to 10 out of 100 people who have diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating insulin production from the body. Without insulin, cells cannot absorb sugar (glucose), which they need to produce energy.
- Symptoms usually start in childhood or young adulthood. People often seek medical help, because they are seriously ill from sudden symptoms of high blood sugar.
- Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented by diabetic's lifestyle choices.
- Type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes) can develop at any age. It most commonly becomes apparent during adulthood. But type 2 diabetes in children is rising. Type 2 diabetes accounts for the vast majority of people who have diabetes-90 to 95 out of 100 people. In type 2 diabetes, the body isn't able to use insulin the right way. This is called insulin resistance. As type 2 diabetes gets worse, the pancreas may make less and less insulin. This is called insulin deficiency.
- The person may not have symptoms before diagnosis. Usually the disease is discovered in adulthood, but an increasing number of children are being diagnosed with the disease.
- Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating sensibly, and exercising regularly.
Both types of diabetes greatly increase a person's risk for a range of very serious complications. Although monitoring and managing the disease can prevent complications, diabetes remains the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure. It also continues to be a critical risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and foot or leg amputations.
Another term that is often talked about is that of prediabetes. Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include prediabetes — when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.
Improving Your Life with Diabetes
- Choose healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight. Losing just 7 percent of your body weight if you're overweight can make a significant difference in your blood sugar control. A healthy diet is one with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, with a limited amount of saturated fat. Limit the amount of processed or ready-made foods.
- Make physical activity part of your daily routine. Regular exercise can help prevent prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and it can help those who already have diabetes to maintain better blood sugar control. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise — such as brisk walking — most days of the week is recommended. A combination of exercises — aerobic exercises, such as walking or dancing on most days, combined with resistance training, such as weightlifting or yoga twice a week — often helps control blood sugar more effectively than does either type of exercise alone.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that the following people be screened for diabetes:
- Anyone with a body mass index higher than 25, regardless of age, who has additional risk factors, such as high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, a history of polycystic ovary syndrome, having delivered a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, a history of diabetes in pregnancy, high cholesterol levels, a history of heart disease, and having a close relative with diabetes.
- Anyone older than age 45 is advised to receive an initial blood sugar screening, and then, if the results are normal, to be screened every three years thereafter.