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Understanding Diabetes

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

One out of every three people in America is on their way to developing type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention AKA the CDC, 88 million Americans have prediabetes. *

This means they are more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future — and most people don’t even know it.* This is why knowing the signs of diabetes and how you can reduce your risk is so important.

What is Diabetes?

But first, what is diabetes? Diabetes is a condition where there is too much sugar in your bloodstream. When you eat food your body breaks it down into smaller parts, with sugar being a major one. Sugar gives you energy, but like most things, you can have too much of a good thing.

Typically, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin allowing your body to use sugar for energy. But if someone has type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t respond to insulin as well as it used.*

This means the sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream stays there and can contribute to long-term health problems like vision changes, heart disease, and kidney disease.

There are three types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are usually diagnosed as children or young adults and they have trouble with high blood sugar because their pancreas can’t make enough insulin.*

Type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes have enough insulin, but their body has become resistant to it. This means the sugar in their blood doesn’t respond to insulin like it normally would. Type 2 diabetes tends to appear in people older than 45 years old and is the most common type.*

Gestational diabetes. If someone develops diabetes during pregnancy, this is considered gestational diabetes. This can happen from a combination of not making enough insulin and not responding as well to insulin.*

Warning Signs of Diabetes

Some people don’t notice the warning signs for diabetes because they can take a long time to develop. These small changes over time can be difficult to spot, but it’s important to know the signs to look for. Here are some of the most common signs of diabetes:

  • Feeling very thirsty

  • Having to pee a lot

  • Losing weight without trying

  • Feeling tired

  • Having sores or wounds that don’t heal or heal very slowly

  • Having blurry vision

  • Dry skin

  • Numbness or tingling in your fingers or toes

What Are My Diabetes Risk Factors?

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes include a family history of type 1 diabetes and younger age. *

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include: *

  • Family history of diabetes

  • History of diabetes during or after pregnancy (gestational diabetes)

  • Being overweight, especially around the waist

  • Taking certain medications known to increase blood sugar (like steroids)

  • History of pancreatitis

  • History of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

  • Having elevated cholesterol, especially triglycerides

Some of the gestational diabetes risk factors are:

  • Being overweight

  • Family history of type 2 diabetes

  • PCOS

  • Over the age of 25

Treatment Options for Diabetes

There are medications available to treat diabetes, but lifestyle changes including adjusting diet and physical activity play a key role in treating diabetes, no matter the type. By reducing carbohydrates and increasing physical activity, you can improve your insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels without ever taking medications.

Sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough to manage your diabetes and this is where medications come in. Diabetes medications can be in pill form, to improve how well insulin works or increase its production. There are also injections used to treat diabetes. Most of these injections are made of insulin to give your pancreas a hand when it comes to managing your blood sugars.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or want to make sure you reduce your risk, working with your healthcare provider, staying active, and eating a balanced diet are all ways you can stay on top of diabetes.

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