What is diabetes?
Diabetes is an illness that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems. Although diabetes has no cure, you can take steps to manage your diabetes and stay healthy.
What are the different types of diabetes?
There are two common types of diabetes are type 1, type 2.
Type 1 diabetes
Patients who have type 1 diabetes, have bodies that do not make insulin. Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.
Type 2 diabetes
In the case of type 2 diabetes, the body does not make or use insulin well. You can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. However, this type of diabetes occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.
Symptoms & Causes of Diabetes
There are several indicators that may suggest that you may be having diabetes. Symptoms of diabetes include
• Increased thirst and urination
• Increased hunger
• Blurred vision
• Numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
• Sores that do not heal
• Unexplained weight loss
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can develop fast even in a matter of weeks. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes on the other hand develop slowly. They can also be mild making them barely noticeable. Majority of people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes—the most common form of diabetes—is caused by several factors, including lifestyle factors and genes.
- Overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity
You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are not physically active and are overweight or obese. Extra weight sometimes causes insulin resistance and is common in people with type 2 diabetes. The location of body fat also makes a difference. Extra belly fat is linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and heart and blood vessel disease. To see if your weight puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes, check out these Body Mass Index (BMI) charts.
- Insulin resistance
Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to keep up with the added demand. Over time, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.
- Genes and family history
As in type 1 diabetes, certain genes may make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The disease tends to run in families and occurs more often in these racial/ethnic groups:
- African Americans
- Alaska Natives
- American Indians
- Asian Americans
- Native Hawaiians
- Pacific Islanders
Genes also can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by increasing a person’s tendency to become overweight or obese.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
There are several factors that are known as trigger type 2 diabetes. They depend on a combination of risk factors such as your genes and lifestyle. Some risk factors cannot be changed such as family history, age, or ethnicity. However some like lifestyle factors around eating, physical activity, and weight are manageable. Taking action on the factors you can change can help you delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. These factors are.
- Overweight or obesity
- Age 45 or older
- Family history of diabetes
- Ethnicity e.g. African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander
- High blood pressure
- Low level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, or a high level of triglycerides
- History of gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more
- Physical inactivity.
- History of heart disease or stroke
There are Diabetes Risk Tests that you can take to learn about your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
When you notice that you have type 2 diabetes risk factors or symptoms, you can try to delay or even prevent it. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop health problems, so delaying diabetes by even a few years will benefit your health. You can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by losing a modest amount of weight by following a reduced-calorie eating plan and being physically active most days of the week. Ask your doctor if you should take the diabetes drug metformin to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.1
How to prevent diabetes naturally
Research has shown that a lot can be done to lower the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Here are some things you can change to lower your risk:
- Lose weight and keep it off. You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of your starting weight.1 For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, your goal would be to lose about 10 to 14 pounds.
- Move more. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week. If you have not been active, talk with your health care professional about which activities are best. Start slowly to build up to your goal.
- Eat healthy foods most of the time. Eat smaller portions to reduce the amount of calories you eat each day and help you lose weight. Choosing foods with less fat is another way to reduce calories. Drink water instead of sweetened beverages.
Ask your health care professional about what other changes you can make to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Most often, your best chance for preventing type 2 diabetes is to make lifestyle changes that work for you long term