November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and in order to be aware of the ins and outs of diabetes, it is important to first know the basics behind diabetes.  Start your awareness of diabetes by becoming familiar with the types of diabetes, how diabetes develops, and how we can lessen our risk of developing diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that develops when the body either does not develop insulin, or if the insulin in the body does not work efficiently.  Insulin is a hormone in the body that is released when the food we consume is broken down and released as glucose into the bloodstream.  Insulin takes the glucose and transports it to our body's cells for use as energy.  Those with diabetes require a controlled diet and medications to help prevent a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream, which can cause health complications.

What are the types of diabetes?

Recent statistics show that about 8.3% of the population of the United States has some form of diabetes whether it be Type I, Type II, or gestational diabetes.  Type I diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, develops in childhood or early adulthood, and is when the body does not produce insulin.  Individuals with Type I diabetes require insulin therapy so that the glucose released from the food they eat can be transported to the body's cells for use as energy.  It is important for such individuals to receive assistance from a healthcare provider on how to provide themselves with enough insulin to compensate for the food they consume at each meal and snack time and to balance their diet with fiber-rich carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains so that they can stabilize their blood glucose levels as much as possible.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes that is seen in mostly adults, and is related to obesity.  Those with type 2 diabetes cannot produce enough insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels, or the insulin in their bodies has become resistant to its normal function due to long-term build-up of fat stores in the body that "wears out" the pancreas, which releases insulin into the bloodstream.  Type 2 diabetes can be treated by eating a balanced diet of healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains as well as by exercising, losing weight, and taking some medications that can help to make the insulin in the body work more efficiently.  Those at risk for Type 2 diabetes include those with a family history of diabetes, those who have high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and/or high blood pressure, those who are considered obese (with a body mass index above 30), and those who display very little physical activity.

Gestational diabetes is a less commonly known form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, usually between the second and third trimesters.  It is similar to Type 2 diabetes in that the body is not completely devoid of insulin, but the insulin in the body is not being produced enough or is not functioning well.  Those with gestational diabetes  Risk factors that increase one's chance of developing gestational diabetes include being above the age of 25, having a family history of diabetes, having a personal medical history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or above normal blood glucose levels, as well as those who are considered obese before becoming pregnant (with a body mass index above 30).  Those who develop gestational diabetes are at increased risk of developing diabetes later in life and place their child at higher risk of being obese and developing diabetes as an adult.

About Pre-diabetes

Pre-diabetes may be a term you have heard in the news, or perhaps at a doctor's appointment.  Pre-diabetes is a condition that precedes diabetes in which blood sugar levels are starting to read at above normal levels.  A normal level of glucose in the body during a fasting plasma glucose test is 100, while those with pre-diabetes have consistently above normal levels between 100 and 125.  Consistent levels between 125 and above may indicate development of diabetes.

There is not yet any conclusive evidence that diabetes can be reversed, therefore it is important to prevent the disease before it develops.  Be sure to visit your healthcare provider on a regular basis to get tested for cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and receive blood pressure screening so that you can lower your risk of developing diabetes.