Are You At Risk For Diabetes?

Are You At Risk For Diabetes?

Our bodies turn the food we eat into sugar to give us energy. When the amount of sugar in our blood is too high, our bodies generally make insulin to bring our blood sugar back to a normal level. There are two main reasons this process doesn’t happen the way it’s supposed to – type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Key Takeaways

Let’s explore the two types of diabetes, potential causes, how diabetes is diagnosed, and some treatment options.

Type 1: Your body isn’t making enough insulin.
Insulin is a hormone (an important chemical our bodies make) that helps control how much sugar is in our blood. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas (the organ that makes insulin) either isn’t making enough, or it isn’t making insulin at all. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes are not able to maintain normal blood sugar levels without help.

Type 2: Your body is making insulin but isn’t using it properly.
In type 2 diabetes, your body makes insulin, but it stays in your blood and doesn’t make it to your cells to be used for energy.

What causes diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system ruins the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Scientists are still working to determine why this happens, but they believe it may be influenced by genetics or other environmental factors (like a viral infection).

Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1. There are several potential reasons a person may develop type 2 diabetes (this list is not all-inclusive):

Genetics. If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, you have a greater risk of developing the disease. Certain ethnic/racial groups also have a higher probability of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Hormone imbalance. Our bodies sometimes produce higher than necessary amounts of certain hormones. This can lead to diabetes when too much of the hormone causes our bodies to become resistant to insulin.

Lack of physical activity leading to obesity. When we have a sedentary lifestyle (meaning we do more sitting than moving,) we’re more likely to hold on to excess weight. This can cause our body’s cells to reject the insulin produced by the pancreas.

Medications. Certain medications can be damaging to the cells in our body, which interferes with the way our body receives and uses insulin.

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Diabetes and other health disorders can have similar symptoms, so it’s important to call your primary care doctor early if you have any concerns. Imaging tests may be necessary to rule out other medical conditions, but a diabetes diagnosis is usually identified with a blood test called an “A1C.”

The A1C test can tell your healthcare provider your average blood sugar level for the previous 2-3 months. This result is more reliable than a single “fasting” blood test (meaning you didn’t eat or drink anything before having your blood drawn).

The A1C result and any physical symptoms reported can help your doctor determine if you have diabetes. Physical signs of diabetes include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue (tiredness, low energy levels)
  • Feeling hungrier and thirstier than normal
  • Frequent urination (an overactive bladder)
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Wounds that aren’t healing as expected

How is diabetes treated?

A nutritious diet and routine exercise are crucial for anyone coping with a diabetes diagnosis. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will also keep your blood pressure and cholesterol within the recommended ranges. This not only helps to keep your diabetes under control, but can also decrease your risk of other health-related problems (like heart disease.)

If diet and exercise alone are not enough to regulate your blood sugar, your primary care provider may want to write a prescription for oral (taken by mouth) or injectable insulin. If this happens, it is important to monitor your blood sugar level throughout the day. A glucose monitor can help you stay on track.

What happens if diabetes isn’t managed appropriately?

Managing diabetes is all about finding a balance. Eating large amounts of sugar will make your blood glucose level too high. An incorrect amount of oral or injectable insulin can make your blood glucose too low. When left untreated, diabetes can negatively impact almost every part of your body. 

While healthy eating habits and regular physical activity provide the best chance of avoiding (or at least postponing) a diabetes diagnosis, there are outside factors that can trigger this disease. Don’t wait to communicate with your primary care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your healthcare team will work with you to establish a proper diet and exercise plan, along with any needed medication therapy. 


American Diabetes Association: Diabetes

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: What is Diabetes?

American Diabetes Association: Diabetes

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: What is Diabetes?

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