Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when the body has trouble using the sugar it gets from food for energy. Sugar builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugar can have immediate effects, like blurry vision. It can also cause problems over time, like heart disease and blindness.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes (once called juvenile-onset diabetes) and type 2 diabetes (once called adult-onset diabetes). Both are caused by problems making or using insulin, a hormone that makes it possible for cells to use glucose, also known as blood sugar, for energy.

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into a simple sugar called glucose. It also produces a hormone called insulin that signals the body's cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't make enough insulin, or stops making it altogether. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body's cells don't respond to insulin. Either way, since sugar can't get into cells, it builds up in the bloodstream. 

Too much sugar in the blood can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms. These include:

  • blurry vision
  • intense thirst
  • need to urinate often
  • fatigue
  • numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

Type 1 diabetes often comes on suddenly. It usually strikes children and teenagers, but can appear later in life. It is an autoimmune disease, meaning it happens because the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the body's insulin-making cells. Type 1 diabetes can't be cured, but it can be managed by taking insulin before eating.

Type 2 diabetes takes longer to develop. It can begin any time from childhood onward. Type 2 diabetes is usually triggered by being overweight or obese and not getting much physical activity. Treatment for type 2 diabetes includes weight loss if needed, daily exercise, a healthy diet, and medications.

Diabetes Articles

Sugar’s not-so-sweet effects on the heart

A sugary diet contributes to weight gain and other factors that boost heart disease risk, including inflammation, disrupted blood sugar control, and increased cholesterol. The typical American diet is very high in added sugar, nearly half of which comes from sugar-sweetened beverages. Another 30% comes from baked goods such as cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, sweet rolls, and pastries. People don’t need to completely give up sweet treats but should enjoy them just once or twice a week rather than daily. (Locked) More »

The high cost of a poor diet

What people choose to eat has a big impact on their cardiovascular health. The dietary habits of the nation as a whole also have a major effect on the country’s economic health. About 45% of the costs associated with heart disease, stroke, and diabetes is related to unhealthy diets. The dietary habits that appear to have the biggest effect are not eating enough nuts, seeds, and seafood omega-3 fatty acids. Among foods to avoid, sugary beverages and processed meats seem to contribute the most to higher costs. Each year, unhealthy diets cost the United States an average of about $300 per person in medical costs, which translates to $50 billion nationwide. (Locked) More »

The far-reaching effects of a little bit of weight loss

Losing 5% of one’s total body weight can result in clinically significant physiologic changes. For example, losing a little weight can reduce heartburn, knee pain, blood pressure, and diabetes risk. Losing 5% of one’s body weight may also lead to better sexual function, more restorative sleep, extra energy, and more self-esteem. To reach a 5% reduction in total body weight, it helps to exercise; eat a healthy diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds; and get enough sleep. (Locked) More »

The bitter truth about added sugar

American adults consume an average of 77 grams (almost 20 teaspoons) of sugar per day. A little extra sugar may seem harmless, but the amounts can add up and, over time, contribute to a variety of health issues, like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Avoiding high-sugar foods by reading labels and cutting out sugar-sweetened beverages are the best ways to lower intake of added sugar. (Locked) More »

What’s the beef with red meat?

A recent study concluded that the quality of existing evidence that red and processed meats are harmful is “low” and advised that people should not change their red meat habits for health reasons. Yet the science community has rebutted this, and international health organizations continue to suggest that lowering red meat consumption can reduce a person’s risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death. More »