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ARTICLE What is Diabetes?

What is Diabetes?

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Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes: 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. It is estimated that 5-10% of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. Those with Type 1 Diabetes usually have to take insulin.

Type 2 diabetes: Results from insulin resistance (a condition in which the body fails to properly use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency. Most Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Is diabetes hereditary?

At this time researchers do not know what causes diabetes, which means that they do not know if diabetes is a hereditary disease. What we do know is that there are several things that can increase your risk for developing the disease.

Some of the more common risk factors are:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
  • If your family background is Alaska Native, American Indian, African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are physically inactive

The best way to prevent or delay the onset of the disease is to maintain a healthy weight level through proper diet and regular exercise.

It is important for diabetics to understand that eating carbohydrates increases their blood glucose levels. Because you want to make sure that the amount of carbohydrates you are consuming balances with your level of physical activity and the pills and insulin you are taking make sure that you are paying close attention to what you are eating and how much you are eating.

There three main types of carbohydrates: starch, sugar, and dietary fiber.

To help you manage your blood glucose level, try "carb counting," which is a meal planning technique that involves setting a maximum amount of carbohydrates you can consumer for each meal. If you don't know how many carbs you should be consuming start with 45-60 grams. The number really depends on the individual, which is why you should consult your physician to determine the appropriate number. Once this number has been determined it is much easier for you to pick the right foods and portions to eat.

According to the American Diabetes association, carbohydrates can be found in the following foods:

  • Starchy foods (breads, cereals, rice)
  • Fruit and juice
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Dried beans and soy products
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn
  • Sweets and snack

By reading the nutrition labels you can track the amount of carbs in each of your meals. If there isn't nutrition label then the following information from the American Diabetes Association will help you make an estimate:

There is about 15 grams of carbohydrate in:

  • 1 small piece of fresh fruit (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup of canned or frozen fruit
  • 1 slice of bread (1 oz) or 1 (6 inch) tortilla
  • 1/2 cup of oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup of pasta or rice
  • 4-6 crackers
  • 1/2 English muffin or hamburger bun
  • 1/2 cup of black beans or starchy vegetable
  • 1/4 of a large baked potato (3 oz)
  • 2/3 cup of plain fat-free yogurt or sweetened with sugar substitutes
  • 2 small cookies
  • 2 inch square brownie or cake without frosting
  • 1/2 cup ice cream or sherbet
  • 1 Tbsp syrup, jam, jelly, sugar or honey
  • 2 Tbsp light syrup
  • 6 chicken nuggets
  • 1/2 cup of casserole
  • 1 cup of soup
  • 1/4 serving of a medium french fry



Can it be controlled?

Yes, diabetes can be controlled. Aside from regularly taking your medication, changing your lifestyle is the best thing you can do to control your diabetes. Keep yourself at a healthy weight by improving your everyday diet and engaging yourself in regular exercise.

Change your daily diet. Eat smaller portions of meat and try to avoid foods high in fat, calories, sodium, and sugar. Decrease your fat intake to being no greater than 25 percent of your calorie intake. Try to make sure you're not getting more than a teaspoon, 2,300mg, of sodium a day. Increase the number of fruits and vegetables you eat. Decrease the number of alcoholic beverages you have a night; 1 for women, 2 for men.


Before you create a regular exercise routine, speak with your healthcare team to determine what types of exercises are safe for you to do. Create a personal and detailed exercise plan for yourself. Choose exercises that you know you can do and write out the number of repetitions, sets, and/or time you will engage in each activity. If it's been some time since you've exercised regularly then be sure to start off slowly. You want to be challenged, but you don't want to push yourself too far.

Be sure that you are drinking plenty of water before, after, and during your exercise. If you know that you're at risk for having low blood glucose, keep a few snacks on you that are high in carbohydrates.


Through the proper diet and exercise, you can control your diabetes.