What is Diabetes?

Understanding type 1 and type 2 diabetes

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Understanding type 1 and type 2 diabetes

The number of adults in the United States with diabetes has almost quadrupled, from 5.5 million in 1980 to 29.1 million in 2014, or 9.3 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 8.1 million adults are undiagnosed.

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which your body’s blood sugar levels are abnormally high.

When we eat, foods containing proteins, fats and carbohydrates are broken down into simpler, easily absorbed components. One of these is a form of simple sugar called glucose. Glucose circulates in the blood stream where it is available for body cells to use as “fuel.”

Diabetes occurs when your pancreas (found just behind the stomach) stops making enough insulin, a hormone that is necessary for the proper metabolism of digested foods. It doesn’t interfere with digestion, but it does prevent the body from using an important product of digestion-glucose for energy.

In a non-diabetic person, the blood carries the glucose or sugar throughout the body, causing blood glucose levels to rise. In response, the pancreas makes insulin and releases it into the bloodstream. Insulin signals the body tissues to metabolize or burn the glucose for fuel, causing blood glucose levels to return to normal.

Types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes

What is pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is a condition where the blood sugar is higher than normal, but the person does not yet have diabetes. Affecting more than 50 million Americans, pre-diabetes is also called impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), and it often has no symptoms.

Studies have shown that most people with IGT develop diabetes within 10 years. At this stage, however, diabetes can still be prevented by losing weight, maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. If you have a family history of diabetes and would like to find out if you may be in a pre-diabetes stage, talk with your doctor.