What You Should Know about Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body cannot produce enough or effectively use insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose from food to enter the body’s cells where it is converted into energy needed by muscles and tissues to function. As a result, a person with diabetes does not absorb glucose properly, and glucose stays circulating in the blood (hyperglycaemia) damaging tissues over time. This damage leads to life-threatening health complications.

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common type of diabetes is type 2. It typically occurs more in adults, but it is becoming increasingly more common in children and adolescents. With type 2 diabetes, the body is able to produce insulin but it is either insufficient or the body is not responding to its effects, which leads to a build-up of glucose in the blood.

People with type 2 diabetes are often unaware of their illness for a long time because symptoms may take years to appear or be recognized, during which time the body is being damaged by excess blood glucose. Many people are diagnosed only when complications of diabetes become apparent.

The majority of people with type 2 diabetes do not usually require daily doses of insulin to survive, but they may be prescribed insulin together with oral medication, a healthy diet and increased physical activity to manage their condition.

 Symptoms of Diabetes

Many people that have diabetes are completely unaware of their condition. The main reason for this is that the symptoms, when seen on their own, seem harmless. However, the earlier diabetes is diagnosed the greater the chances are that serious complications can be avoided. The most common symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme thirstiness
  • Intense hunger
  • Weight gain
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts and bruises that don’t heal properly or quickly
  • More skin and/or yeast infections
  • Itchy skin
  • Red and/or swollen gums
  • Sexual dysfunction among men
  • Numbness or tingling, especially in feet and hands

Risk Factors Associated with Diabetes

The following are the most common factors that increase one’s risk for diabetes:

  • Being age 45 or older
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being fairly inactive
  • Having a history of high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, or high blood pressure (that is a blood pressure of 14/90 or higher)
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes.
  • Being African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander American.

Reduce Your Risk for Diabetes

The best way to prevent type 2 diabetes is to exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet. Here are ten tips to help you make healthier choices.

  1. Drink a large glass of water 10 minutes before your meal so you feel less hungry.
  2. Drink water instead of juice and regular soda.
  3. Keep meat, poultry, and fish portions to about 3 ounces.
  4. Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain that you are full.
  5. Make healthy choices at fast food restaurants. Try grilled chicken (with skin removed) instead of a cheeseburger. Have a salad with low-calorie salad dressing when eating out.
  6. Pack healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, nuts, or whole grain crackers.
  7. Slow down at snack time. Eating a bag of low-fat popcorn takes longer than eating a candy bar.
  8. Keep a written record of what you eat for a week. It can help you see when you tend to overeat or eat foods high in fat or calories.
  9. Take time to change the way you eat and get active. Try one new food or activity a week.
  10. Think before you eat. Try not to eat when you are bored, upset, or unhappy.

 Things to Remember

  • Talk to your doctor about your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and what you can do to lower your chances.
  • Take steps to prevent diabetes by making healthy food choices, staying at a healthy weight, and moving more every day.
  • Keep track of the many ways you are moving more and eating healthy by writing them down.


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