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Published on June 01, 2015

Diabetes: What You Should Know

Diabetes is often understood as a disease that most commonly affects those who don’t follow a healthy diet. However, it’s important to know that there’s more to the disease than this common misperception.

Two Main Types of Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2

“Type 1 is an auto-immune disorder where the body attacks cells that produce insulin, the hormone needed to move blood sugar from the blood stream into body cells,” said Eileen Sturner, manager of The Diabetes Centers of Abington - Jefferson Health. “When the body is unable to make insulin, the blood sugar level in the blood stream rises too high.” As a result, these individuals need to be treated with insulin to stay healthy. According to Sturner, only about five to 10 percent of all people with diabetes in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes.

“A type 2 diabetes diagnosis is given to those whose bodies don’t use insulin properly, or whose pancreas no longer makes an adequate supply of insulin,” said Sturner.

There’s also gestational diabetes, which occurs in some women during pregnancy, but typically goes away after childbirth.

In type 1, a person typically inherits risk factors from both their parents. Type 2 diabetes, however, is influenced by a variety of factors such as age, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Sturner says certain ethnicities may be at a greater risk for type 2 diabetes than others, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Latin Americans.
But there’s hope for those who are at high risk for the disease.

“About 79 million adults in America have pre-diabetes, which is huge,” said Sturner. “It’s important for people to know that if they have pre-diabetes, lifestyle changes can be made to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.”

Deduce Your Risk

According to a study from 2007, a person can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent if they lose five to seven percent of their body weight, lower their fat intake and increase activity to 150 minutes a week.

If diagnosed with diabetes, it’s essential that you work closely with your physician and learn how to manage the condition on a daily basis. “At Abington, we have a comprehensive diabetes education program that covers all aspects of diabetes, including nutritional management, how to add physical activity, how to monitor blood sugar as well as how to make necessary lifestyle changes to improve blood sugar control,” said Sturner. “It’s a critical part of treatment.”

She also adds the importance of receiving ongoing support. “Diabetes is lifelong, but you can learn how to manage it and have a lifetime of good health,” said Sturner.

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