What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is the white elephant in the room these days. Our society has seen a rise in diabetes and is a subject that often makes people fearful. Maybe people wouldn’t be afraid of diabetes if they knew the facts.

So, what is Diabetes?

Here’s the breakdown. Knowledge is power and learning about diabetes can make a difference in prevention, management, and living a life free of complications from this condition.

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. The major difference is Type 1 diabetes can’t usually be prevented whereas Type 2 diabetes can.

Type 1: Juvenile Diabetes

Diabetes Type 1 is often called “juvenile diabetes.” It typically shows up in childhood and adolescence, although it has been known to affect adults.

This form of diabetes is an auto-immune disease. This means that the body attacks its own cells for some reason. In this case, what’s under attack is the cells of the pancreas. Since the pancreas produces insulin, the body will either produce no insulin or not enough to be sufficient for the body’s needs.

Let’s take a small step back and explain the role of insulin in the body. When the body’s metabolism is responding normally, it uses sugar to fuel the body’s needs. That sugar is derived from the foods we eat, mostly carbohydrates. During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into their simplest form, sugars, namely glucose.

Glucose is stored in the body as fat if it is not needed right away for energy. Some glucose is allowed to pass into the bloodstream where it is made available for use. In response to the amount of sugar in the blood, the pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin is like the taxi that transports its “sugar” passengers to the cells of the body where it is burned as fuel to keep you moving. Without insulin, sugar can’t pass through the walls of the cells.

So, now that we are up to speed, we can return to our discussion. With diabetes Type 1, the pancreas can’t respond to the levels of sugar in the blood and the level becomes too high. Over a period of time, this can result in organ and tissue damage.

Type 2: Adult Onset Diabetes

Diabetes Type 2 is known as “adult onset diabetes.” The greatest incidence is in people over the age of 60. However, with our society’s sedentary lifestyle, that average age is rapidly changing and we now see Type 2 diabetes in people as young as twenty.

With Type 2, certain risk factors, some self-imposed, are responsible for the diabetic condition. In the body, either the cells become resistant to insulin or the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to meet the demands. The same reactions occur in Type 2 as Type 1: blood sugar is not regulated and serious complications could be the result.

Now that you know the simple facts about diabetes, take a minute to assess your risk factor. If you have any concerns, consult your doctor or health care professional.

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