Jan
08
2013

The Science of Diabetes

Diabetes Basics

Having diabetes means that your blood sugar — or “blood glucose” — levels are too high. Your blood always has some glucose in it, because your body needs glucose for energy to keep you going. But too much glucose in the blood can be bad for your health. Glucose gets in your bloodstream from the foods you eat and is also produced in your liver and muscles. Your blood carries the glucose to all the cells in your body.

Insulin, a hormone made in a part of the body called the pancreas, helps the glucose from food get inside your cells. If your body doesn’t make enough insulin or if the insulin doesn’t work the way it should, glucose can’t get into your cells. It stays in your blood instead. Your blood glucose level then gets too high, causing you to have diabetes.

The signs of diabetes are:

  • increased thirst
  • frequent urination
  • extreme hunger or fatigue
  • repeated or slow-healing infections
  • having dry, itchy skin
  • blurred vision
  • tingling or loss of feeling in your hands or feet

Some people may not experience these or any symptoms.

People can get diabetes at any age. There are 3 main types.

Type 1 Diabetes

Formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, it is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. In this form of diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body’s immune system has attacked and destroyed them.

Type 1 is the type of diabetes that people most often get before 30 years of age. All people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin because their bodies do not make enough of it. Insulin helps turn food into energy for the body to work.

Type 2 Diabetes

Also known as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, this type is the most common form of diabetes. About 90% of people with diabetes have this type. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age — even during childhood. If you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas usually makes plenty of insulin. But your body cannot correctly use the insulin you make. You might get this type of diabetes if members of your family have or had diabetes. You might also get type 2 diabetes if you weigh too much or do not exercise enough.

After you have had type 2 diabetes for a few years, your body may stop making enough insulin.

Type 2 is the type of diabetes most people get as adults after the age of 40. But you can get this kind of diabetes at a younger age.

Gestational Diabetes

Some women develop gestational diabetes during the late stages of pregnancy. Although this form of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, a woman who has had it is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin.

More about Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by high sugar levels and the body’s inability to use and/or produce insulin. Sometimes the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Other times, the cells throughout the body become resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas, and it is much more difficult for the sugar to enter the cells. This is known as insulin resistance and is thought to be caused by a breakdown in cell-to-cell communication.

Approximately 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And, since the symptoms often appear gradually, nearly 5 million more have it and don’t even know it.

What is a Desirable Blood Glucose Level?

Everyone’s blood has some glucose in it. In people who don’t have diabetes, the normal range is about 70 to 120. Blood glucose goes up after eating, but returns to the normal range 1 or 2 hours later.

A desirable blood glucose range for most people with diabetes is from about 80 to 120. This is before a meal — like before breakfast or 4 to 5 hours after your last meal. For most people, the target for 2 hours after a meal is 180 or less. Before bedtime, your blood glucose should be between 100 and 140.

Complications

After many years, diabetes can lead to serious problems in your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth. But the most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease. When you have diabetes, you are more than twice as likely as people without diabetes to have heart disease or a stroke.

If you have diabetes, your risk of a heart attack is the same as someone who has already had a heart attack. Both men and women with diabetes are at risk. You may not even have the typical signs of a heart attack.

You can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by controlling your blood pressure and blood fat levels. The best way to take care of your health is to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol in your target range.

A Growing Epidemic

A recent medical research report, looking ahead from the year 2000, set the tone for today’s high — and growing — level of concern about the increasing diabetes threat.

“Diabetes mellitus has reached epidemic proportions worldwide as we enter the new millennium. The World Health Organization (WHO) has commented there is ‘an apparent epidemic of diabetes which is strongly related to lifestyle and economic change.’ Over the next decade the projected number will exceed 200 million, possibly reaching 250 million persons. Most will have type 2 diabetes, and all are at risk of the development of complications.”

The World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Foundation have predicted this year that the number of diabetes sufferers worldwide will more than double to 366 million by 2030, from some 171 million in 2004.

Some 3.2 million people died in 2000, the latest year for which figures were available, of ailments brought on by diabetes such as cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.

This compares with three million deaths from AIDS.

Even more alarming, a new epidemic of type 2 diabetes is affecting America’s children. Just 10 years ago, type 2 diabetes was rare; by 1999, type 2 diabetes affected children in up to 45% of diagnosed cases, depending on geographic location.

Many of those millions of new type 2 cases won’t be diagnosed for years — but some already have their beginnings in today’s unhealthy lifestyles. This means that you (or someone you care about) may already have type 2 diabetes, or develop it, if you are aging, eating an unhealthy diet, are obese, or are living a sedentary lifestyle.

Diabetes Basics

Having diabetes means that your blood sugar — or “blood glucose” — levels are too high. Your blood always has some glucose in it, because your body needs glucose for energy to keep you going. But too much glucose in the blood can be bad for your health. Glucose gets in your bloodstream from the foods you eat and is also produced in your liver and muscles. Your blood carries the glucose to all the cells in your body.

Insulin, a hormone made in a part of the body called the pancreas, helps the glucose from food get inside your cells. If your body doesn’t make enough insulin or if the insulin doesn’t work the way it should, glucose can’t get into your cells. It stays in your blood instead. Your blood glucose level then gets too high, causing you to have diabetes.

The signs of diabetes are:

  • increased thirst
  • frequent urination
  • extreme hunger or fatigue
  • repeated or slow-healing infections
  • having dry, itchy skin
  • blurred vision
  • tingling or loss of feeling in your hands or feet

Some people may not experience these or any symptoms.

People can get diabetes at any age. There are 3 main types.

Type 1 Diabetes

Formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, it is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. In this form of diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body’s immune system has attacked and destroyed them.

Type 1 is the type of diabetes that people most often get before 30 years of age. All people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin because their bodies do not make enough of it. Insulin helps turn food into energy for the body to work.

Type 2 Diabetes

Also known as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, this type is the most common form of diabetes. About 90% of people with diabetes have this type. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age — even during childhood. If you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas usually makes plenty of insulin. But your body cannot correctly use the insulin you make. You might get this type of diabetes if members of your family have or had diabetes. You might also get type 2 diabetes if you weigh too much or do not exercise enough.

After you have had type 2 diabetes for a few years, your body may stop making enough insulin.

Type 2 is the type of diabetes most people get as adults after the age of 40. But you can get this kind of diabetes at a younger age.

Gestational Diabetes

Some women develop gestational diabetes during the late stages of pregnancy. Although this form of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, a woman who has had it is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin.

More about Type 2

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by high sugar levels and the body’s inability to use and/or produce insulin. Sometimes the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Other times, the cells throughout the body become resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas, and it is much more difficult for the sugar to enter the cells. This is known as insulin resistance and is thought to be caused by a breakdown in cell-to-cell communication.

Approximately 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And, since the symptoms often appear gradually, nearly 5 million more have it and don’t even know it.

What is a Desirable Blood Glucose Level?

Everyone’s blood has some glucose in it. In people who don’t have diabetes, the normal range is about 70 to 120. Blood glucose goes up after eating, but returns to the normal range 1 or 2 hours later.

A desirable blood glucose range for most people with diabetes is from about 80 to 120. This is before a meal — like before breakfast or 4 to 5 hours after your last meal. For most people, the target for 2 hours after a meal is 180 or less. Before bedtime, your blood glucose should be between 100 and 140.

Complications

After many years, diabetes can lead to serious problems in your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth. But the most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease. When you have diabetes, you are more than twice as likely as people without diabetes to have heart disease or a stroke.

If you have diabetes, your risk of a heart attack is the same as someone who has already had a heart attack. Both men and women with diabetes are at risk. You may not even have the typical signs of a heart attack.

You can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by controlling your blood pressure and blood fat levels. The best way to take care of your health is to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol in your target range.

A Growing Epidemic

A recent medical research report, looking ahead from the year 2000, set the tone for today’s high — and growing — level of concern about the increasing diabetes threat.

“Diabetes mellitus has reached epidemic proportions worldwide as we enter the new millennium. The World Health Organization (WHO) has commented there is ‘an apparent epidemic of diabetes which is strongly related to lifestyle and economic change.’ Over the next decade the projected number will exceed 200 million, possibly reaching 250 million persons. Most will have type 2 diabetes, and all are at risk of the development of complications.”

The World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Foundation have predicted this year that the number of diabetes sufferers worldwide will more than double to 366 million by 2030, from some 171 million in 2004.

Some 3.2 million people died in 2000, the latest year for which figures were available, of ailments brought on by diabetes such as cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.

This compares with three million deaths from AIDS.

Even more alarming, a new epidemic of type 2 diabetes is affecting America’s children. Just 10 years ago, type 2 diabetes was rare; by 1999, type 2 diabetes affected children in up to 45% of diagnosed cases, depending on geographic location.

Many of those millions of new type 2 cases won’t be diagnosed for years — but some already have their beginnings in today’s unhealthy lifestyles. This means that you (or someone you care about) may already have type 2 diabetes, or develop it, if you are aging, eating an unhealthy diet, are obese, or are living a sedentary lifestyle.

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