The connection between glucose, diabetes and your health

June 28, 2022

According to the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report for 2020, the cases of diabetes now number an estimated 34.2 million. This represents over 10% of the American population. So how do you know if you’re at risk for this growing health condition and if so, what can you do about it?

Just what is diabetes?

Let’s start with the basics. The Mayo Clinic defines diabetes as a group of diseases that affect how your body uses its blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is your body’s main source of energy; your blood transports glucose throughout your body to provide your cells the fuel they need. However, for diabetics, their body is struggling to produce or use insulin, the hormone that allows your body to turn glucose into energy. Since the glucose is not being converted, it leads to an excess of glucose in the bloodstream.

How can this affect your health? If untreated, diabetes can threaten your well-being through heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation, to name but a few critical health impacts.

Type 1 diabetes is an immune system disorder that affects your pancreas and limits insulin production or produces none at all. Without insulin, blood sugar cannot enter the cells of your body to provide the energy they need. Type 1 diabetes is mostly found in children, teens and young adults, although it can occur at any age.

Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults over age 45 but it is not uncommon for younger people and children to be diagnosed with it. Those with Type 2 diabetes have cells not responsive to insulin or what is commonly referred to as “insulin resistance.” The good news is that early detection of pre-diabetes can be managed with diet, exercise and monitoring of blood sugar, which can even prevent the full development of Type 2 diabetes.

Warning signs you may have type 1 or type 2 diabetes

As with many diseases, you’ll discover common warning signs and symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The Mayo Clinic says these include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections

How to prevent diabetes

To prevent all types of diabetes including pre-diabetes, you must take good care of your body. This means practicing good nutrition and regular exercise. It also means keeping your weight at the appropriate level. Of course, you should always consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking any diet or exercise program.

Eat the right kind of foods:

  • Maintain a regular diet of fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Choose whole grains and lean sources of protein
  • Drink water over sugary beverages
  • Eliminate or limit processed foods including snacks such as chips, cookies and candy
  • Keep an eye on your portion size

Maintain a daily exercise program of 30 minutes for most days:

  • Choose movement when possible throughout day; for example, take the stairs instead of an elevator when given the choice
  • Consider a brisk walk
  • Ride your bike or stationary bike
  • Work in your yard
  • Take a swim
  • Lift weights

How to treat diabetes

Depending on the type of diabetes, your healthcare provider may recommend treatment through several different options. These include blood sugar monitoring, insulin and oral medications. Sticking to a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and following a regular exercise program are also vital factors in treating or managing diabetes.