All types of diabetes involve the hormone insulin. Insulin, which is made by the pancreas, takes sugars (that we get from eating food) from our blood to our cells to use as energy. If insulin is not present or is not working effectively, then glucose can build up in the blood, causing life-threatening conditions.
Type 1 diabetes, which affects 5 percent of all people with diabetes, is an autoimmune disease most often diagnosed in childhood or the teen years; in fact, traditionally, it was known as juvenile diabetes. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas produces very little insulin or no insulin at all. People with Type 1 diabetes have to inject themselves once a day with insulin to regulate the levels of glucose in their blood.
The majority of all diagnosed cases of diabetes are Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes since it is often diagnosed later in life. In Type 2 diabetes, your body may be producing insulin but your body is essentially ignoring it, producing the same buildup of glucose in your bloodstream.
There are certain risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, the most well-known being obesity. Other risk factors include ethnicity, age and diet.
There’s also gestational diabetes, which affects about 18 percent of all pregnancies. A woman who develops high blood sugar levels (and didn’t have diabetes prior to her pregnancy) during pregnancy is said to have gestational diabetes. If you’re pregnant, your doc will usually give you a blood glucose test between your 24th and 27th week of pregnancy so you can be treated accordingly.
So is there any way to prevent diabetes?
Type 1 is medically unpreventable autoimmune disease, but Type 2 is definitely preventable in many people. Millions of people in the world are diagnosed with diabetes, and millions more don’t even know that they’re at risk.
One of the most important things you can to do prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes is to maintain a regular exercise routine. Almost anything will do, as long as it involves you moving. The International Diabetes Federation recommends doing at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily, like walking, swimming or even dancing! As long as it’s something you enjoy, you’re bound to stick with it.
Another thing you can focus on is your diet. A diabetes prevention diet would include lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. It would essentially help you maintain regular blood glucose levels by eating a variety of nutritious foods and sticking to regular mealtimes. It is not a diet, per se, as much as it is a lifestyle.
What’s most important is to get prescreened, and if you’re older than 45, to get regular blood glucose tests. Diabetes is manageable, but it can also be preventable in lots of us, so if you think you’re at risk, you have another great reason to get off the couch and get moving.
Related diabetes stories on MNN:
- Changes in gut flora linked to type 2 diabetes
- Study: Weight training my reduce diabetes risk in men
- Alarming rise in diabetes for children