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Diabetes keeps your body from using food normally. Sugar builds up in the blood, which causes diabetes. Normally, most food is broken down into glucose (sugar) and is absorbed in the bloodstream for cell growth and energy. A hormone called insulin produced in the pancreas helps glucose enter the cells and converts sugar, starches and other foods into energy in your cells. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce is not used well by the body. Some racial and ethnic populations, including black or African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino and Pacific Islanders, are at a higher risk for developing all types of diabetes.

Diabetes requires good education and self-management. It is important to keep your blood sugar under control. Prevention or control of diabetes problems is needed to stay healthy.

Types of Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes -- a form of glucose intolerance that develops and is discovered during pregnancy.

  • More common among obese women and women with a family history of diabetes. Women are screened at 24-28 weeks gestation.
  • Gestational diabetes requires treatment to keep the mother's blood glucose normal to avoid complications in the baby.
  • Women who have had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life and should be screened 6-12 weeks postpartum.


Pre-diabetes -- also called impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose, occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.

  • Impaired fasting glucose occurs when the overnight fasting (no calorie intake for at least eight hours) produces blood glucose levels of 100 to 125 mg/dl. Impaired glucose tolerance occurs when the blood glucose level is elevated (140 to 199 mg/dl) after a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test.
  • In the past, misleading terms such as borderline or a touch of sugar may have been used to describe what is now known as pre-diabetes.
  • Individuals with pre-diabetes are more likely to develop diabetes within 10 years and are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
  • People with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes with modest weight loss and increased physical activity.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas either produces very little insulin or none at all. It is sometimes called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes.

  • It occurs between birth and adulthood and more often in whites.
  • Symptoms can include being very thirsty or hungry over a long period of time, having to urinate more often than usual, losing a lot of weight without trying to, having blurred vision and being very tired over a long period of time.
  • Type 1 diabetes will require replacement insulin every day.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas still produces insulin but it doesn't produce enough or the body has trouble using the insulin.

  • Type 2 diabetes usually occur in adults older than 35 and in people who are overweight. Overweight or obese children and teenagers are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • Symptoms can include extreme tiredness, being unusually hungry or thirsty, losing weight suddenly, urinating more often than normal, blurry vision and sores or infections that take a long time to heal. Some people have no symptoms.
  • Type 2 diabetes can be controlled by losing weight, improving nutrition and increasing exercise. Some people may need to take medication by mouth and/or insulin shot.
Risk Factors for Developing Type 2 Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Positive family history
  • High blood pressure (140/90 or higher)
  • Elevated lipid levels - (HDL 35 mg/dl or lower and triglycerides level of 250 mg/dl or higher)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Habitually physical inactivity
  • Previous testing which revealed impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose
What Can You Do?


  • Learn as much as you can about diabetes from your health care provider, diabetes educator and dietician.
  • Know how and when to check your blood sugar. Keep a record with date and time of your blood sugars if done at home.
  • Take medications as ordered.
  • Follow a meal plan of three times a day, with snacks between and at bedtime.
  • Read food labels when you go shopping. Look for foods low in sugar, fat and carbohydrates.
  • Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity.

Tobacco Cessation

The use of tobacco in any form is a great health concern. Even if you don't smoke, reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke. If you use tobacco products, prepare yourself to quit as soon as possible.

  • Set a date to stop and mark it on your calendar. Twenty-four hours before the start date make everyone aware of your goal to stop.
  • Remove the smell of tobacco by cleaning your house and car. Remember to get rid of lighters, ashtrays and matches.
  • You can use over-the-counter aids such as nicotine patches and gum. Contact your health insurance provider to see if Nicotine replacement therapy is a covered service.
  • Know what your triggers are that make you want to use tobacco products and be prepared with chewing gum, celery or carrot sticks.
  • Kentucky has a free Quit Now program that helps you quit using tobacco products. You can contant the Quit Now program at (800) 784-8669.

Working with Your Health Care Provider

  • Talk to your health care provider about what type of exercise is best for you
  • Keep appointments with your health care provider. Expect these at every visit:
    • Foot exam
    • Blood pressure check
    • Weight
  • Dental exam planned every six months
  • A1C blood test every six months
  • Retinal eye exam every year
  • Get a urinalysis every year
  • Get a flu shot every year
  • If you are 45 or older and overweight or obese, testing for diabetes and pre-diabetes is recommended
  • If you are an adult younger that 45, are overweight or obese and have any other risk factors, ask about your risk for pre-diabetes or diabetes and if you should get tested


Last Updated 6/29/2012