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A word from Blood Sugar Basics physician advisor
Dr. Farhad Zangeneh

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Diabetes Overview

Diabetes impacts nearly 26 million Americans, and 90 to 95 percent of these people have type 2 diabetes. If you don’t have diabetes, you probably know someone who does. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar for energy, and can be divided into two main categories: type 1 and type 2.

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, but can occur at any age, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin – a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Five to ten percent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes – millions of Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and many more are unaware they are at high risk for the condition. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin and/or the body cannot utilize insulin effectively, which can lead to serious long-term complications.

Blood sugar control is an essential aspect of diabetes management, and it’s important to understand your blood sugar goals to best manage your diabetes.

Risk factors

Type 2 diabetes is developed due to both genetics and lifestyle choices, including not making healthy food choices and lack of physical activity. Some people are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than others including:

  • Those over age 45
  • Those with a family history of diabetes
  • Those who are overweight
  • Those who do not exercise regularly
  • Those with low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure
  • Certain racial and ethnic groups (e.g., Non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians and Alaska Natives)
  • Women who had gestational diabetes, or who have had a baby weighing 9 pounds or more at birth

Common symptoms

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue and irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infection

People should contact their healthcare providers if they experience these symptoms. Some people may have type 2 diabetes without any symptoms, so it’s important to get regular blood tests, especially if you are at a higher risk for developing diabetes.

Consequences

When your diabetes is not controlled properly and your blood sugar stays too high for a long time, it can damage blood vessels and nerves. This damage can affect many of the organ systems in your body and can raise your risk of complications, such as:

  • Stroke
  • Eye problems
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Nerve damage to feet

The good news is that it is possible to reduce the risk of complications of diabetes through careful management of your overall blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Management

To help reduce your risk of diabetes-related complications, talk with your diabetes healthcare team (primary care provider, endocrinologist and/or diabetes educator) about how to manage your ABCs – A1C, Blood pressure and Cholesterol.

  • A1C testing shows what your blood glucose has been over the last three months. The A1C goal recommended for many patients with diabetes is 6.5 percent or less. A different goal may be appropriate for some patients. High blood glucose levels can harm your heart and blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.
  • Blood pressure goal for many patients with diabetes is 130/80. High blood pressure can contribute to heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
  • Cholesterol goals for most people with diabetes include an LDL of less than 100. LDL cholesterol can build up and clog blood vessels, causing heart attacks or strokes.
Fast 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Make your next conversation with your diabetes healthcare team count by asking these five questions about blood sugar!

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Blood Sugar Checklists

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