What You Need To Know About Diabetes

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Joan Lunden

Diabetes / / November 20, 2014



November is National Diabetes Month, therefore a perfect time to draw attention to this complex disease. There are two major types of diabetes, both of which cause a variety of symptoms and come with different forms of treatment. Many people are at risk of developing the disease, particularly those who neglect their health. According to, 29.1 million people in the United States have diabetes, 8.1 million of which may be undiagnosed and unaware of their condition. So, let's take a closer look.

Insulin and glucose are the two main contributors to diabetes: 

  1. Insulin - a hormone that allows sugar to pass from blood cell to blood cell, which helps your body maintain a normal blood sugar level. 
  2. Glucose - a natural sugar taken from food that your body uses for energy.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 diabetes  - high blood sugar levels due to little or no production of insulin in the body. 
  2. Type 2 diabetes -  high blood sugar levels due to the body not producing enough insulin, becoming insulin resistant, or a combination of both.

Type 1 Diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes is when a person’s body produces little or no insulin. This means there are no cells to absorb glucose (sugar) - resulting in dangerously elevated amounts of sugar levels in the bloodstream. Although the cause is unknown, doctors believe diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when beta cells of the pancreas are attacked by the body’s immune system, leaving the pancreas unable to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes because it is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. It accounts for only 5% of people diagnosed with the disease.

Risk factors for Type 1 Diabetes:

The risk factors for Type 1 diabetes are still being researched. However, doctors have found that if your family has a history of diabetes, your risk of developing the disease increases.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes:

  • Excessive urination
  • Deep, rapid breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting; inability to keep down fluids
  • Stomach pain
  • Thirst / Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme weight loss in a short period of time
  • Numbness or lack of sensation in the feet or hands

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes usually develop quickly.

Type 2 Diabetes:

Type 2 diabetes is when the cells in the body become insulin resistant, which means the body produces insulin, but the cells in the body fail to respond and are unable to use insulin effectively. This also leads to an elevation of glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and accounts for 90%-95% of all cases. 

Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Family history
  • Age - the older you get the more at risk you are for developing Type 2 diabetes
  • Race - African Americans, Latinos, American Indians and Asian-Americans are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than Caucasians 
  • Physical inactivity (30 minutes of exercise per day can reduce your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by 40%)
  • Being overweight
  • Unhealthy/Poor diet

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Fatigue
  • Thirst / Hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Pain or numbness in the feet or hands
  • Excessive urination
  • Extreme weight loss in a short period of time
  • Numbness or lack of sensation in the feet or hands

Symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are VERY similar, but a person with Type 2 diabetes usually develops symptoms slowly, over an extended period of time. 


How is Type 1 Diabetes diagnosed?

A blood test called a Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test, is done to check the bloods sugar levels from the past 2-3 months. Another test, a Fasting Blood Sugar test, can also be performed. This test requires the patient to fast overnight so the results can show accurate sugar levels within the bloodstream. If 2 blood tests conclude a sugar level of 6.5% or higher, diabetes may be diagnosed. In addition to the A1C blood test, a doctor should also check their patient’s thyroid, kidney function and liver function as well as their blood pressure, cholesterol and take urine samples periodically. This test is done for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Is Type 1 Diabetes preventable?

As of today, there is no known prevention.

How do you live with Type 1 Diabetes?

Since the body is not able to produce insulin on its own, people with Type 1 diabetes have to stay active, manage their diets and take insulin to keep their blood sugar within their target range. Insulin is administered either by injection, several times a day, or by an insulin pump.  A Type 1 diabetic is responsible for monitoring their blood sugar levels on a daily basis. 

How do you live with Type 1 Diabetes?

People with Type 2 diabetes may or may not require insulin on a daily basis. According to the CDC only 14% of adults use insulin, 13% use insulin and oral medication, 57% take oral medication only, and 16% control their blood sugar with diet and exercise alone.

Is Type 2 Diabetes preventable?

85% of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, delayed, or effectively treated if an individual is physically active, maintains a healthy weight, and keeps a well balanced diet. 

What are the complications with Diabetes?

Poorly managed diabetes can have a significant impact on the rest of your body. Some complications may include:

  • Eye problems - which can lead to blindness
  • Diabetic nerve pain – diabetes can cause damage to the nerves, especially the ones in the toes, feet, fingers and hands
  • Infections – in severe cases this can lead to amputation
  • Kidney damage
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol


Take charge of your health!

A cure for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes has not yet been found, but they are both manageable. With today’s medical advancements, those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are living longer than in the past due to proper treatment and a healthier lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes cannot be fully reversed, BUT people can control their Type 2 by staying active and being cautious of what they eat. By making a lifestyle change an individual can significantly reduce the development of Type 2 diabetes and may find they can maintain normal or near normal blood glucose taking little or no insulin.

So stay healthy and keep active! 


Diabetes infographic
Categories: Diabetes, Health
About The Author
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Joan Lunden truly exemplifies today’s modern working woman. An award-winning journalist, bestselling author, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur, one of America’s most recognized and trusted television personalities, this mom of seven continues to do it all. As host of Good Morning America for nearly two decades, Lunden brought insight to top issues for millions of Americans each day. The longest running host ever on early morning television, Lunden reported from 26 countries, covered 4 presidents and 5 Olympics and kept Americans up to date on how to care for their homes, their families and themselves.

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