The American Diabetic Association estimates that 18 million Americans suffer from diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or adequately utilize insulin. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas; it is needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. People with diabetes have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels because their bodies do not properly produce or use insulin. As a result, blood sugar, or glucose, accumulates in the blood and makes blood sugar levels rise. Instead of being used for energy as it should be, sugar passes out of the body through the urine. This puts an extra strain on the kidneys, causing frequent urination and excessive thirst. The cause of diabetes is a mystery, although genetic and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise seem to play definite roles.
Types of Diabetes
There are three types of diabetes. In Type 1diabetes, the pancreas produces no insulin. This type can affect anyone, but occurs most often in children and young adults, accounting for only about 5 to 10 percent of diabetes cases. Its main cause is genetic. Type 1diabetics must take daily insulin injections to survive.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body does not properly make or use insulin. It is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90 to 95 percent of people with the disease. Being overweight or obese is a common risk factor for this type of diabetes. It can usually be controlled through diet and exercise. Type 2 diabetes is nearing epidemic proportions, due to an increased number of older Americans and a greater prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
Type 3 diabetes is gestational diabetes, which can occur during pregnancy. It is usually the result of changing hormones within a woman's body. It needs to be carefully controlled throughout the pregnancy and usually disappears once the baby is born. Women who have gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing it in later pregnancies.
Uncontrolled diabetes can cause major health problems and can even be life threatening. It is a major risk factor for heart disease, poor circulation, eye disorders, foot problems, and kidney disorders. In addition to taking your diabetes medication or insulin as instructed by your doctor, you can influence your blood sugar and your health in a positive way by improving your diet, exercising, and reducing your stress levels.