Diabetes is one of the most important chronic health problems of modern life.
The number of people with diabetes is on the rise. Diabetes affects people’s
health in several ways. For instance, diabetes increases the costs and prolongs
the length of stay in about one quarter of all hospital admissions in the U.S.,
from any cause. For reasons like this, diabetes has become the most expense
chronic illness in the country.
Diabetes is a disease that results when your body either does not make enough insulin or
does not use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas to
turn the food you eat (especially the sugars and starches) into the energy
you need each day.
When everything is working right, here is what is supposed to happen:
- You eat, and the food is converted into sugar.
- Sugar levels in your blood start to rise.
- This signals your pancreas to provide insulin.
- Insulin "unlocks" cells throughout your body to let the sugar in.
- Your cells use this sugar for energy.
When you have type 2 diabetes, your cells can't use insulin properly. This
is called being insulin resistant. In addition, many people with type
2 diabetes make less insulin than the body needs.
One key aspect of treating type 2 diabetes is to make your cells more sensitive to
Glucose levels in your blood
The sugar in your blood is called glucose. Insulin and glucose are partners
-- both are necessary for your body to function. When insulin lets enough sugar
into your cells to provide fuel for your body, the level of sugar in your blood
If you have untreated diabetes, your cells may be starving for energy
while the glucose in your blood begins to rise. The glucose can reach very
high levels. Over time, high glucose levels may damage many different organs
in your body. Thus, poorly controlled diabetes can lead to serious long-term
health problems, including:
- Heart disease and stroke
- Kidney disease
- Eye complications
- Nerve damage
- Foot complications
The good news is that your diabetes can be controlled, and long-term complications
can be prevented or minimized. To do so, you need to learn how to keep your
blood glucose levels in the safest range possible. This is accomplished through
good nutrition, exercise, and weight loss. Sometimes you'll need diabetes medicine
as well. And it is wise to incorporate psychological and social support into
your plan from the beginning -- rather than waiting for a specific problem.
Managing diabetes involves making last changes in long-standing habits. You’ll
want all the support to do this that you can get.
Getting the facts will help you take charge. Don't worry about learning everything
at once! In time you will become an expert -- you will learn more as you go
Review Date: 5/1/2006
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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