What they are and the 5 risk factors to keep in mind.

EatingWell Editors

What they are and the 5 risk factors to keep in mind.

Type 1Five to 10 percent of people with diabetes fall into this category, which used to be called "juvenile diabetes" because itis most often diagnosed before age 30. However, type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, even in the elderly. People with type 1diabetes are unable to produce their own insulin, so they must take insulin daily in order to survive. Given in injections orthrough a pump, the insulin doses are timed to correspond with food intake, so an eating plan is an essential part oftreatment.

Type 2Type 2 diabetes-by far the most common kind, accounting for nine out of ten American cases-is caused by a combination ofproblems. It usually begins as body cells become insulin resistant-less able to process insulin's signals. But as long as thebody can make enough insulin to overcome the resistance, blood-glucose levels remain normal. Eventually, however, the pancreascan't produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance, and the problem becomes a deficiency in insulin. Even though insulinlevels may still be higher than normal, the amount just isn't enough to keep blood-glucose levels within a normal range. Thelonger a person has diabetes, the more likely it is that insufficient insulin is the cause of high blood-glucose levels. Whentype 2 diabetes is first diagnosed, many people can control their glucose by making and maintaining changes in their eating andphysical 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 blamethemselves, or feel as if they've "failed." In fact, diabetes progression isn't anyone's fault, but rather the result ofinheriting beta cells that fail over time. To keep the beta cells working longer, it's important to keep blood-glucose levelsas normal as possible by whatever means necessary.

Gestational DiabetesThis form of diabetes affects about 7 percent of all pregnant women in the U.S. It usually develops during the last partof a pregnancy, when hormonal changes can increase the body's demand for insulin. It is generally treated with an eating planand careful blood-glucose monitoring, to make sure both mother and infant are getting the nutrients they need. Most casesresolve once the baby is born, but women who have had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2diabetes. Close to 40 percent of women who have had gestational diabetes eventually develop type 2 diabetes.

PrediabetesBefore people develop type 2 diabetes, they often have higher-than-normal blood-glucose levels, but not high enough for adiagnosis of diabetes. An estimated 41 million people fit this "prediabetes" category. They have attracted lots of attentionfrom diabetes researchers, and not just because of their numbers. Studies show that people with prediabetes can cut their riskof progressing to full-blown diabetes by at least half. How? By making small lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularlyand 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, suchchanges 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 orAsian/Pacific Islander heritage • Having a history of gestational diabetes, or having given birth to a baby weighing more than9 pounds

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