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What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body uses energy.

When you eat, your body digests the food — you break down the food into many parts. One of these parts is glucose, which is what your body uses for energy. Your pancreas responds by producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to get the glucose into every cell in your body. Think of your cells like a house, and insulin is the key that unlocks the door to let glucose in!


When you have diabetes, there is a malfunction in one of the steps. It may be that your pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin, or that your cells are not able to use the insulin — or a combination of both. When this happens, glucose builds up in your blood. Too much glucose in your blood damages cells and blood vessels.

There are several types of diabetes: type I, type II, and gestational diabetes. The most common type is type II diabetes, which is often diagnosed later in life — but in recent decades, rates have dramatically increased in children.

How do I know if I have diabetes?

Symptoms of diabetes include extreme tiredness, increased thirst, unexplained weight loss, blurry vision, urinating frequently, and cuts or sores that don’t heal well. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to problems like blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, amputations, and death.

People are often diagnosed with a condition called prediabetes before diabetes. Prediabetes means that lab values are elevated, but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor will perform several tests, including an A1C test, a fasting plasma glucose, an oral glucose tolerance test, and/or a random plasma glucose test.

Normal test values are as follows:

  • A1C test: < 5.7%
  • Fasting plasma glucose:  < 100 mg/dl
  • Oral glucose tolerance test:  < 140 mg/dl

How common is diabetes?

An estimated 29.1 million Americans are living with diabetes — that’s over 9% of the population!

What is treatment for diabetes?

Diabetes is highly treatable, and can sometimes be reversed! Start by keeping your blood sugar normal, or as close to normal as possible. You may need medication, or you may be able to get results by changing your diet. Buy a glucose monitor so you will know what your sugars are. Keep a log, and test at different times of the day.

Reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke by keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels normal. People with diabetes are at risk for both!  Adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle that are both enjoyable and realistic for you to follow. That way, you can prevent, or at least slow, the development of complications.

Talk with a Certified Diabetes Educator. He or she can help you make a plan for taking these steps. A new diagnosis can be overwhelming, and these professionals are trained specifically to help those with diabetes manage the disease. If you need to lose weight, a Certified Diabetes Educator can give you realistic advice to help you start seeing results.

Always talk with your doctor and follow his or her advice about your conditions.

For referrals to these services and more, be sure to ask your doctor, or call our Health Care Concierge team at 1-888-876-2756. Health coaches are also available to assist you!