Diabetes health facts
- Diabetes is a chronic health condition in which your blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, levels are too high.
- The four types of diabetes are type 1 (body does not make insulin), type 2 (body does not make insulin well), prediabetes (blood sugar is higher than normal), and gestational (occurs in pregnant women).
- According to the American Diabetes Association, 30.3 million Americans had the disease in 2015, with 1.5 million new cases diagnosed every year.
What is diabetes?
This disease is a group of conditions in which there are elevated levels of blood glucose (also called blood sugar) over a sustained period of time. Left uncontrolled, high blood glucose levels can lead to serious and even fatal complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney disease.
Diabetes involves insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that is responsible for converting sugars from food into a form of energy that can be readily absorbed by the body’s cells for energy. We treat the following types of this disease.
Type 1 diabetes
Centura Medical Group HealthFit Family Medicine can treat type 1 diabetes, although this type is more frequently managed by an endocrinologist – a specialist who treats issues related to the endocrine glands and hormones.
The type 1 form of this disease is when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin, ceasing insulin production. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in young people, so it used to be called “juvenile diabetes.” People diagnosed with type 1 need to regularly monitor their blood sugar and administer insulin, either through injections or an insulin pump.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is not well understood, and there is currently no cure. However, maintaining an active lifestyle and following a healthy eating plan, in addition to blood monitoring and insulin therapy, can minimize the risk of complications. When properly managed, the type 1 diabetic can lead a healthy and active lifestyle.
Type 2 diabetes
This is the most common form of the disease. It occurs when the body makes an insufficient amount of insulin or fails to use insulin efficiently. Most often type 2 develops in adulthood as a result of certain lifestyle factors, so it used to be called “adult-onset diabetes.”
It progresses gradually, beginning with insulin resistance and a condition called prediabetes (described in further detail below). Left unchecked, insulin resistance develops into type 2 diabetes, which may ultimately require medication, insulin injections or both to prevent serious and fatal complications. Prediabetes, insulin resistance and type 2 have many causes, the most common of which include:
- Being overweight or obese.
- Lack of exercise.
- Unhealthy diet, particularly one high in carbohydrates and sugars.
- A family history of type 2.
This disease can be effectively controlled through lifestyle interventions, the most effective of which are exercise, weight loss and nutrition management. Type 2 diabetics who are overweight, obese or have unhealthy eating habits can dramatically reduce symptoms and complications related to the condition by losing weight and adopting a healthy diet. We have developed excellent programs to give people the support and guidance they need to reach these goals.
Before a person gets type 2 diabetes, he or she will have what’s called prediabetes, which is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet at the diabetes range. According to the American Diabetes Association, an alarming 26 percent of adults (84 million) in the United States had prediabetes in 2015.
HealthFit providers want to address lifestyle issues and means of control at the prediabetes stage, working to stop its progression to type 2. People often do not have symptoms. In our examinations and discussions with our patients, we try to determine if we should test for prediabetes.
This is a condition in which a woman has dangerously high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. It is caused by hormones produced during pregnancy, and generally resolves after labor and delivery.
HealthFit typically refers pregnant patients with gestational diabetes to an OB/GYN for care. An OB/GYN will ask the patient to regularly monitor blood glucose levels while watching her diet. The care provider will also help the woman adopt an exercise regimen appropriate for her pregnancy. While it is not a chronic condition, women with gestational diabetes are statistically more likely to develop type 2 at some point in their lifetime, and are therefore urged to maintain an active lifestyle and sensible diet to reduce the risk.
Symptoms can vary depending on how much a person’s blood sugar is elevated. Symptoms may be so mild in people who have prediabetes or in type 2 diabetics that it leads to symptoms going unnoticed. For those with type 1 diabetes, the symptoms may come on quickly and be more severe.
Women with gestational diabetes often have no symptoms. This is why it is important for at-risk pregnant women to be tested during the pregnancy.
Common signs and symptoms for type 1 and type 2 include:
- Frequent urination.
- Increased thirst.
- Extreme hunger.
- Blurred vision.
- Dry skin.
- Slow-healing cuts and bruises.
- Frequent infection.
- Unexplained weight loss (common with type 1).
- Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands and feet (common with type 2).
Diagnosing the disease
The American Diabetes Association recommends the following people be tested every three years for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes:
- Anyone over 45 years old.
- Anyone who has a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25, for Asian-Americans more than 23.
- Any women who had gestational diabetes.
- Anyone diagnosed with prediabetes.
To check for the condition, a doctor may request the following tests that can be performed in the HealthFit office and lab.
- Fasting blood sugar test: a blood sample taken after an overnight fast.
- Oral glucose tolerance test: after an overnight fast a patient will drink a sugary liquid, with blood sugar levels tested periodically over the next two hours.
- Random (or causal) blood sugar test: a blood sample taken at a random time to test blood sugar levels.
- A1C (glycated hemoglobin) blood test: indicates the average blood sugar level for the past three months.
Without ongoing care and management, the condition can lead to a buildup of sugars in the blood. This can cause serious health complications including heart disease and stroke.
Below are treatment options for diabetic people.
Healthy eating and exercise
The first treatment approach for type 2 is weight loss, meal planning and exercise. At HealthFit we partner our patients with kinesiologists to find the ideal diet and exercise plan for each person.
Top lifestyle changes for diabetics include:
- Eating a diet full of fresh, nutritious foods. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins and healthy fat sources.
- Avoid high-sugar foods such as sweetened sodas, high-sugar desserts and fried foods.
- Stop smoking. This is important because both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels, which cause your heart to work harder.
- Refrain from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day at least five days a week.
After a type 2 diabetic tries to control the condition by weight management with no luck, a doctor may recommend starting oral medication. These can help a person’s body produce more insulin. They can also help one’s body use the insulin in more efficient ways.
Oral medication is not effective in treating type 1 diabetes.
Insulin injections are the only treatment option for type 1 diabetics and one of the options for people with type 2 diabetes. People with this disease are prescribed insulin because either their body does not produce insulin (type 1 diabetics) or it does not use insulin properly (type 2 diabetics).
There are more than 20 types of insulin sold in the United States. Each one is slightly different in how it is made, how it works and how much it costs. If insulin injections are determined to be the best treatment option, one of our medical providers will help find the right type to meet each patient’s needs.
Diabetics can live a normal life if they pay attention to their diet, exercise, weight and medication. If a person does not control the disease, it can lead to serious health problems, known as diabetic complications. These include:
- Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).
- Diabetic retinopathy (eye problems).
- Diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage).
- Heart disease.
Take the next steps at HealthFit
If it is suspected that you or your child may have diabetes, you should make an appointment with a medical provider. The earlier the condition is diagnosed the sooner treatment can begin. On top of medication for type 2 diabetes, HealthFit providers specialize is exercise and diet as a primary treatment option.