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Understanding diabetes

Diabetes affects how your body processes glucose, which is a type of sugar. Glucose is important for your overall health. It serves as a source of energy for your brain, muscles, and other tissue cells. Without the right amount of glucose, your body has trouble functioning properly.

Two types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Five percent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. If you have type 1 diabetes, your body can’t produce insulin. With proper treatment and lifestyle choices, you can still lead a healthy life.

Doctors usually diagnose type 1 diabetes in people who are younger than 40. The majority of people who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are children and young adults.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1 diabetes. Your risk of developing it increases as you age, especially after age 45.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body is insulin resistant. This means it doesn’t use insulin efficiently. Over time, your body can’t produce enough insulin to maintain consistent blood glucose levels. A number of factors can contribute to type 2 diabetes, including:

  • genetics
  • poor lifestyle habits
  • excess weight
  • high blood pressure

Diabetes affects men and women in different ways. Women with diabetes are at higher risk of:

  • heart disease, which is the most common complication of diabetes
  • blindness
  • depression

If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you can take steps to manage your blood sugar and lower your risk of complications. This can include eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and following your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan.

The symptoms typically develop more slowly in type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes. Watch out for the following symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • extreme thirst
  • increased urination
  • blurred vision
  • weight loss for no apparent reason
  • tingling in your hands or feet
  • tender gums
  • slow-healing cuts and sores

The symptoms of diabetes vary. You may experience some or all of these symptoms. If you notice any of them, contact your doctor. They may be symptoms of diabetes or other medical issues.

It’s also possible to have diabetes with no obvious symptoms. That’s why it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for routine blood glucose screening. Ask your doctor if they should check your blood glucose level.

If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce or use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body convert glucose into energy and store excess glucose in your liver. When your body doesn’t produce or use insulin the way it should, glucose builds up in your blood. Over time, high blood glucose levels can lead to serious health complications.

You’re at increased risk of developing diabetes if you:

  • are over the age of 40
  • are overweight
  • eat a poor diet
  • don’t exercise enough
  • smoke tobacco
  • have high blood pressure
  • have a family history of diabetes
  • have a history of gestational diabetes, which puts women at a greater risk of developing diabetes after childbearing age
  • experience viral infections often

You won’t know if you have diabetes until you get properly tested. Your doctor will probably use a fasting plasma glucose test to check you for signs of diabetes.

Before the test, your doctor will ask you to fast for eight hours. You can drink water, but you should avoid all food during this time. After you’ve fasted, a healthcare provider will take a sample of your blood to check your fasting blood glucose level. This is the level of glucose in your blood when there’s no food in your body. If your fasting blood sugar level is 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher, your doctor will likely diagnose you with diabetes.

You may take a separate test afterward. If so, you’ll be asked to drink a sugary beverage and wait two hours. Don’t expect to move much during this time. Your doctor wants to see how your body reacts to sugar. Your doctor will periodically test your blood sugar levels over the course of two hours. At the end of two hours, they’ll take another sample of your blood and test it. If your blood sugar level is 200 mg/dL or higher after two hours, it’s likely your doctor will diagnose you with diabetes.

Your doctor may prescribe medication to help keep your blood glucose in the healthy range. For example, they may prescribe oral pills, insulin injections, or both.

You need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to manage your diabetes and lower your risk of complications. Exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet. Consider following meal plans and recipes made especially for people with diabetes. For example, the American Diabetes Association offers recipes to help make healthy eating easier and less stressful.

Diabetes isn’t curable, but you can take steps to manage your blood sugar and lower your risk of complications. For example, eating a well-balanced diet and exercising 30 minutes per day can help you control your blood glucose levels. It’s also important to follow your doctor’s prescribed medication plan.

Women over the age of 40 can take preventive measures to keep their glucose levels in check. This includes to following:

  • Eat breakfast. This can help you maintain steady blood glucose levels.
  • Lower the amount of carbohydrates in your diet. This means cutting down on bread and starchy foods such as white potatoes.
  • Add a rainbow of colors to your plate every day, including brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as berries, dark, leafy greens, and orange vegetables. This will help you get an array of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Incorporate ingredients from multiple food groups into every meal and snack. For example, instead of eating only an apple, pair it with a swipe of protein-rich peanut butter or a serving of reduced-fat cottage cheese.
  • Avoid soda and fruit drinks. If you enjoy carbonated beverages, try mixing sparkling water with a squeeze of citrus juice or a few cubes of fresh fruit.

Almost everyone can benefit from these healthy eating tips, so you don’t need to cook separate meals for you and your family. You can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals together. Adopting lifestyle habits may help you prevent diabetes and lower your risk of complications if you have it. It’s never too late to develop healthier habits.