What they are and the 5 risk factors to keep in mind.
Five to 10 percent of people with diabetes fall into this category, which used to be called “juvenile diabetes” because it
is most often diagnosed before age 30. However, type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, even in the elderly. People with type 1
diabetes are unable to produce their own insulin, so they must take insulin daily in order to survive. Given in injections or
through a pump, the insulin doses are timed to correspond with food intake, so an eating plan is an essential part of
Type 2 diabetes—by far the most common kind, accounting for nine out of ten American cases—is caused by a combination of
problems. It usually begins as body cells become insulin resistant—less able to process insulin’s signals. But as long as the
body can make enough insulin to overcome the resistance, blood-glucose levels remain normal. Eventually, however, the pancreas
can’t produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance, and the problem becomes a deficiency in insulin. Even though insulin
levels may still be higher than normal, the amount just isn’t enough to keep blood-glucose levels within a normal range. The
longer a person has diabetes, the more likely it is that insufficient insulin is the cause of high blood-glucose levels. When
type 2 diabetes is first diagnosed, many people can control their glucose by making and maintaining changes in their eating and
physical activity. But diabetes is a progressive disease; over time, lifestyle changes need to be combined with medications,
such as diabetes pills—and, eventually for many, insulin. When some people with diabetes reach this point, they may blame
themselves, or feel as if they’ve “failed.” In fact, diabetes progression isn’t anyone’s fault, but rather the result of
inheriting beta cells that fail over time. To keep the beta cells working longer, it’s important to keep blood-glucose levels
as normal as possible by whatever means necessary.
This form of diabetes affects about 7 percent of all pregnant women in the U.S. It usually develops during the last part
of a pregnancy, when hormonal changes can increase the body’s demand for insulin. It is generally treated with an eating plan
and careful blood-glucose monitoring, to make sure both mother and infant are getting the nutrients they need. Most cases
resolve once the baby is born, but women who have had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2
diabetes. Close to 40 percent of women who have had gestational diabetes eventually develop type 2 diabetes.
Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they often have higher-than-normal blood-glucose levels, but not high enough for a
diagnosis of diabetes. An estimated 41 million people fit this “prediabetes” category. They have attracted lots of attention
from diabetes researchers, and not just because of their numbers. Studies show that people with prediabetes can cut their risk
of progressing to full-blown diabetes by at least half. How? By making small lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly
and losing just 5 to 10 percent of their body weight (for a 150-pound person, that’s 71/2 to 15 pounds). In one study, such
changes were more powerful in lowering diabetes risk than a widely used diabetes drug!
5 Risk Factors for Diabetes
• Having a family history of diabetes • Being overweight • Being inactive • Having African, Native American, Hispanic or
Asian/Pacific Islander heritage • Having a history of gestational diabetes, or having given birth to a baby weighing more than