Maintaining a Healthy Life with Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, with 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7% of the population with the disease.

While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed worldwide, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease.

Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy needed for daily life.

The cause of the disease continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.


The classic triad of diabetes symptoms is frequent urination, increased thirst with an increased fluid intake, and increased appetite.

Symptoms may develop quite rapidly (weeks or months) in type 1, particularly with children. However in type 2 the symptoms develop much more slowly and may be subtle or completely absent.

Type 1 may also cause a rapid yet significant weight loss (despite normal or even increased eating) and irreducible fatigue.

Both type 1 and 2 are at least partly inherited. Type 1 appears to be triggered by some (mainly viral) infections, or in a less common group, by stress or environmental exposure (such as to chemicals or drugs).

Type 2 has a stronger inheritance pattern; those with first-degree relatives with type 2 have a much higher risk of developing type 2, increasing with the number of those relatives.


Major types of diabetes:

  • Type 1: Results from the body's failure to produce insulin, the hormone that "unlocks" the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them.
  • Type 2: Results from insulin resistance (a condition in which the body fails to properly use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency. Most Americans are diagnosed with type 2.
  • Gestational: Affects about 4% of all pregnant women - about 135,000 cases in the United States each year.
  • Pre-diabetes:, A condition that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2. There are 54 million Americans who have pre-diabetes.

Health care providers conduct a Plasma Fasting Glucose Test (FPG) or an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) to make diagnoses. With the FPG test, fasting blood glucose level between 100 and 125 mg/dl signals pre-diabetes while higher numbers signals a person as having the disease.

By taking care of your diabetes you'll reduce your risk for problems with your kidneys, eyes, nerves, feet and legs, and teeth. You will simply feel better.

You can take care of yourself by:

  • Being physically active
  • Following a healthy meal plan
  • Taking medications (if prescribed by your doctor)
  • Physical activity

    Research has shown that a physically active lifestyle can:

    • Lower your blood glucose and your blood pressure
    • Lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol
    • Improve your body's ability to use insulin
    • Lower your risk for heart disease and stroke
    • Keep your heart and bones strong
    • Keep your joints flexible
    • Lower your risk of falling
    • Help you manage your weight
    • reduce your body fat
    • Give you more energy
    • Reduce your stress
    • Can delay and possibly prevent Type 2

    Healthy meals

    If there is one thing that can improve your health, it is to eat more fruit and vegetables.

    In today's fast food environment it is easy to say but hard to do. Contrary to popular belief, stocking up on fruits and vegetables does not translate into traveling to the gourmet market every week or spending lots of money on expensive, out-of-season produce at the grocery store.

    There are ways to give you and your family the daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, saving time, money, and sanity: canned, dried and frozen varieties.

    Thanks to new technologies such as flash-freezing, frozen and canned produce can be just as nutritious as their counterparts - which may have spent days on a truck.

    Some nutrients provided by canned, dried, or frozen fruits and vegetables are:

    • Fiber - raspberries, blueberries, broccoli, and dried apricots
    • Vitamin A - sliced red peppers, pumpkin, carrots, spinach
    • Vitamin C - strawberries, green peppers, tomato or vegetable juice, citrus juice
    • Folate - brussels sprouts, asparagus, spinach

    Here are some tips for stocking your pantry with healthy fruits and vegetables:

    • When buying canned vegetables, look for low-sodium variety. Drain and rinse the vegetables to remove extra salt.
    • Frozen produce is picked and frozen at the peak of its ripeness and flavor. Stock up your freezer and use frozen produce liberally.
    • Only buy 100% fruit juice
    • Avoid fruit canned in heavy syrup. Look for canned fruit in "juice," "extra light syrup" or with "no sugar added."
    • Beware of dried fruit that has extra sugar added


    Taking medications

    Some medical tips for fighting diabetes:

    • Schedule regular visits and always follow the advice of your doctor
    • Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels as prescribed by your doctor
    • Do not "cheat" with your diet by using your medication to adjust your blood sugar levels
    • If you experience any blood sugar levels excessive or too low, immediately seek medical attention
    • Never reuse a syringe for insulin shots and keep them sterile

    Diabetes screening is recommended for many people at various stages of life, and for those with any of the several risk factors. Many health care providers recommend universal screening for adults at age 40 or 50, and often periodically thereafter. Please consult your personal doctor to determine your risk factors and to see if you should be screened.

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