What is diabetes? Blood sugar? Glucose? A1c? There are many new words that come along with being told you have pre-diabetes or diabetes. When you have a basic understanding of these terms and what’s going on in your body, you will understand what lifestyle choices will help you to optimize blood sugar.
How would you describe diabetes in your own words?
Let’s start with a very general definition:
Diabetes is a disease where the body either does not make enough insulin and/or does not use insulin that is being produced effectively to regulate glucose (blood sugar), leading to potentially dangerous high blood glucose levels.
We’ll continue to build on these concepts in the following sections.
Types of Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes
As you may know, there are different types of diabetes, but for our purposes within this course, we will be focusing on pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Here’s a quick summary of the most common types of diabetes:
Pre-Diabetes - If you have pre-diabetes, that means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. However, without lifestyle changes, those with pre-diabetes are at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes down the road. If you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, this is an excellent time to make changes to your health now to avoid progressing to diabetes in the future.
Type 2 Diabetes - Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes, and it typically develops over time depending on lifestyle factors. However, there are certain risk factors, such as family history and ethnicity, that are linked with an increased risk of developing this condition. This type of diabetes happens when the body is either unable to make enough insulin to manage the amount of incoming glucose or doesn’t respond to that insulin as well anymore.
Type 1 Diabetes - This is a genetic condition that often shows up at a young age in which the body attacks its own pancreatic cells, preventing the body from making its own insulin. Type 1 is managed under a doctor’s supervision with insulin injections and is much less common in comparison to type 2 diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes - This is a condition unique to pregnancy in which a hormone made by the placenta impairs the body’s ability to use insulin effectively. Unlike type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes is not directly linked to lifestyle factors. This condition typically resolves after delivery, but it can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
There are many risk factors that can increase a person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Some of these are outside of a person’s control, such as family history, age, race, and ethnicity, or certain conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). There are also several factors that you do have some control over, such as physical activity levels, diet, and body weight.
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