What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a long-lasting health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. There are three types of diabetes: type I, II, and gestational (during pregnancy), which can cause health problems over time if left untreated or controlled poorly with diet and medication.
Type 1 diabetes
In type 1 diabetes your pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t make it at all. Insulin is needed to provide blood sugar for energy to all the cells in your body. Without insulin, sugar is blocked from getting to cells and builds up in the blood. Different factors such as genetics and some viruses may cause type 1 diabetes. There is no cure. Treatment is about managing the amount of sugar in the blood using insulin, diet and lifestyle to prevent serious complications. Doctors often diagnose type 1 diabetes in children and young adults when they have symptoms such as feeling thirsty or having to urinate more often, but these will not be present for all people with the condition. Adults may also develop it due to its sometimes specific signs, including excessive thirst/urination, muscle weakness (mild); rapid weight loss; increased heart rate.
Type 2 diabetes
In type 2 diabetes, there is an impairment in the way the body uses sugar as fuel for cells. The result is too much sugar circulating in the blood, which can cause damage to organ systems of the body. Experts recommend routine testing for type 2 diabetes if you have certain risk factors. You may have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you are:
- age 35 or older
- American Indian, Black or African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander
- overweight or obese and have at least one other risk factor
- a woman who had gestational diabetes
Consider taking the American Diabetes Association Diabetes Risk Test to see if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Experts recommend testing children and teens between the ages of 10-18 who are overweight or are considered obese. If you notice one more risk factor such as a low birth weight or a parent with diabetes during pregnancy, then it’s best to have your child tested too! Adults and children with normal diabetes test results should be retested every 3 years. If your blood sugar levels are higher than the normal range but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes, doctors may determine that you have prediabetes. People who are diagnosed with prediabetes have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes than those without the condition. You can prevent disease progression by following your doctor’s advice and getting tested every year!
Testing for type 2 diabetes before and during pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to get tested for type 2 diabetes. The disease can lead to an increase in complications during pregnancy and may also increase risks to your baby! Women who are at high-risk should be checked early so they know what their condition is and how best deal with both medicines and/or diet accordingly throughout the pregnancy.
All pregnant women should be tested for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. If you have the condition, get tested again 12 weeks after giving birth to see if your symptoms were caused by type 2 disorder–this will help prevent developing an even worse problem in future pregnancies!
Nutrition and physical activity are two of the most important factors in a healthy lifestyle when you have diabetes. Along with other benefits, following an eating plan that’s right for your body can help keep blood sugar levels where they need to be while also keeping calories balanced between meals or snacks throughout each day along with any medication prescribed by doctors if necessary! Becoming more active and making changes in what you eat and drink can seem challenging at first. You may find it easier to start with small changes and get help from your family, friends, and healthcare team. Eating well and being physically active most days of the week can help you
- keep your blood glucose level, blood pressure, and cholesterol in your target ranges
- lose weight or stay at a healthy weight
- prevent or delay diabetes problems
- feel good and have more energy
Diabetes doesn’t mean going without foods you enjoy – it just means eating smaller portions or less often. Your health care team will help create a meal plan that meets your needs and likes! If you have diabetes, it is important to make sure that your meals include a variety of foods from all four major food groups. Make sure these items come with the amounts outlined in your meal plan and eaten at regular intervals throughout each day as part of an overall approach towards healthy living. The food groups are as follows:
- Vegetables: includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and green peas
- Fruits: includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes
- Grains: at least half of your grains for the day should be whole grains. Includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, quinoa, bread, pasta, cereal and tortillas.
- Proteins: includes lean meat, chicken or turkey without the skin, fish, eggs, nuts and peanuts, dried beans and certain peas such as chickpeas and split pea and meat substitutes such as tofu.
- Dairy—nonfat or low fat: includes milk or lactose-free milk if you have lactose intolerance, yogurt and cheese.
Learn more about the food groups at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ChooseMyPlate.gov. Eat foods with heart-healthy fats, which mainly come from these foods:
- oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola and olive oil
- nuts and seeds
- heart-healthy fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
Use oils when cooking food instead of butter, cream, shortening, lard, or stick margarine.
Foods and drinks to limit include:
- fried foods and other foods high in saturated fat and trans fat
- foods high in salt, also called sodium
- sweets, such as baked goods, candy, and ice cream
- beverages with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks
Drink water instead of sweetened beverages. Consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea. The best way to enjoy alcohol is in moderation. If you’re a woman, limit yourself to one drink per day and if male, two alcoholic beverages daily because too much can affect your blood glucose level which could lead to other health problems such as liver damage or fatty tissue growth on the stomach area.
- increased thirst and urination
- increased hunger
- blurred vision
- numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- sores that do not heal
- unexplained weight loss
The symptoms for type 1 and type 2 diabetes present themselves differently. Symptoms of type 1 often start quickly, sometimes only in a matter of weeks. Type 2 symptoms generally will develop slower, sometimes over the span of several years. The symptoms for type 2 can be so mild that you may not even notice them. Many people with type 2 diabetes oftentimes have no symptoms at all and don’t realize they have it until they have diabetes-related health problems, such as blurred vision or heart trouble.