What is diabetes?
Diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Our bodies convert the food we eat into glucose while the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which helps glucose to get into the cells of our bodies where it can be used to make energy. With diabetes, the body may not make enough insulin, use the insulin in the right way, or both, causing blood sugar levels to be too high.
Over time, diabetes can cause additional health issues such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and circulation problems that could lead to amputation.
What are the different types of diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes develops most often in children and young adults. This type of diabetes accounts for approximately 5% of all diagnosed cases. With type 2 diabetes, commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes, the body produces insulin, but doesn't use it the right way. This is the most common type of diabetes, as it accounts for approximately 90-95% of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which only pregnant women get.
What are the risk factors for diabetes?
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at a particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.
Risk factors are not as well defined for type 1 diabetes. However, autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved in developing the less common type 1 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35 - 60% chance of developing diabetes in the next 10 - 20 years.
What is the treatment for diabetes?
Healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin injections are the basic therapies for type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin taken must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose testing to ensure that they do not go too low or too high.
Similarly to type 1 diabetes, the basic therapies for type 2 diabetes are healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels from being too low or too high.
Can diabetes be prevented?
Researchers are making progress in identifying the exact genetics and "triggers" that predispose some individuals to develop type 1 diabetes, but prevention remains key.
A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity.
Building on this research, the Center for Disease Control's National Diabetes Prevention Program supports establishing a network of community-based, group lifestyle intervention programs for overweight or obese people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. As of early 2011, it was anticipated that 33 U.S. sites will offer group lifestyle interventions, with plans to expand to other communities.
Is there a cure for diabetes?
While there is no cure for diabetes at this time, the US Department of Health and Human Services is actively researching how to prevent diabetes, cure diabetes, and improve the quality of care for people with diabetes to prevent devastating complications, in response to the growing health burden on Americans with this disease.
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The above information is intended for an education aid only. It is not intended as medical/nutritional advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor before following any regimen to see if it safe and effective for you.