Monday, November 5, 2012

Diabetes 101

In recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month, here are the basics of Diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

  • Diabetes affects the way your body uses food for energy.  
  • When you eat food, your body changes it into sugar.  
  • Your body also makes insulin.  
    • Insulin helps move the sugar from your blood into your body’s cells to be used for energy.
    • Your body normally keeps blood sugar and insulin in balance.
    • When you have diabetes, your body isn’t getting the energy it needs.

When your pancreas no longer produces insulin and the sugar cannot move in to the cells to become energy, you have TYPE 1 DIABETES. This type of Diabetes only affects 5-10% of people who have diabetes.

When your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin and/or cannot use it well enough to get the blood sugar into the body’s cells for energy, you have TYPE 2 DIABETES.

In both situations, blood glucose builds up in your body and can lead to serious health problems and premature death.

Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes include:

  • Older Age
  • Obesity
  • Family History of diabetes
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race/ethnicity
    • African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for Type 2 Diabetes.

Pre-diabetes is the stage that occurs before a person gets Type 2 Diabetes.  Blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Over 79 million people have pre-diabetes (

How do you know if you have diabetes?
The common signs of diabetes are:

  • Feeling Tired
  • Urinating often
  • Being very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry
  • Having blurry vision
  • Having an infection that does not go away
  • Having wounds or sores that do not heal well
  • Possible weight loss

How will the doctor diagnose diabetes?
If your health care provider thinks you may have diabetes, there are some blood tests available to find out for sure.

  1. FASTING BLOOD SUGAR—prior to this test, you should not eat for 8-10 hours. A person without diabetes will have a fasting blood sugar between 70-99mg/dl.  A person with pre-diabetes will have a fasting blood sugar between 100-125 mg/dl.  A person with diabetes will have a fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dl or greater. 
  2. ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST-- This test measures your body’s response to sugar.  You are given a drink with a very high amount of sugar.  Then your blood sugar levels are tested every 60 minutes for up to three hours.  The 2 hour reading is often used to diagnose diabetes.  
  3. HEMOGLOBIN A1C—This is a non-fasting blood test that measures the average blood sugar levels over a period of up to 3 months.

Why is it important to know if I have diabetes or not?  
If you have diabetes and do not control it, there are many complications that could become very serious.

  • Cardiac problems—Heart Attack
  • Kidney problems—Nephropathy
  • Nerve problems—Nerve Damage
  • Vision problems--Retinopathy
  • Circulatory problems—Heart Attack, Stroke
  • Amputations—Peripheral Arterial Disease
  • Stroke
  • Mouth and Gums—Gingivitis
  • Depression
  • Erectile Dysfunction 
  • Death

Diabetes affects the entire body. In order to control diabetes, you need to work on having a healthy lifestyle.  This may mean changing the way you eat and exercise.  Do not think of it as a "diet" but a lifestyle change.  Talk with your doctor to develop a care plan that is specifically for you.

Ways to control and prevent complications of diabetes include:

  • Eating healthy
  • Weight loss
  • Exercise
  • Taking care of your feet and eyes
  • Quitting tobacco
  • Regular visits with your healthcare provider
  • Relieve stress
  • Accept that you have diabetes
  • Set goals

Know your target numbers, keep your doctor appointments, learn what you can do to help manage your diabetes.

Grace C. Eaton, LPN
Nurse Panel Manager
PHMG Patient Centered Nursing Team
Diabetes Self-Management Support
Certified Smoking Cessation Instructor
PinnacleHealth FamilyCare of Lower Paxton


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