FAQs About Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. Your body breaks down most of the food you eat into sugar (glucose) and releases it into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to letting the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.

With diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake). This reaction stops your body from making insulin. Approximately 5-10% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often develop quickly. It’s usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes. Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are not as clear as for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Known risk factors include:

  • Family history: having a parent, brother, or sister with type 1 diabetes
  • Age: you can get type 1 diabetes at any age, but it usually develops in children, teens, or young adults

Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. This is also known as insulin resistance. When we eat, our bodies break down complex carbohydrates into glucose, the fuel we need. The pancreas releases insulin that acts as a kind of key to unlock the cells, allowing glucose to enter and be absorbed. In type 2, the pancreas initially produces extra insulin, but eventually cannot keep up with production in order to keep blood sugar at normal levels. Without insulin, sugar stays in the blood and can cause serious damage to the entire body. You’re at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Have prediabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed over 9 pounds
  • Are an African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, or Alaska Native person. Some Pacific Islanders and Asian American people are also at higher risk
  • If you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease you may also be at risk for type 2 diabetes

You can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with proven lifestyle changes. These include losing weight if you’re overweight, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, your baby could be at higher risk for health problems. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after your baby is born. However, it increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. Your baby is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen and develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes is commonly diagnosed as high blood glucose starting between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Occasionally it is diagnosed earlier in pregnancy, which may indicate high blood glucose prior to pregnancy. Managing gestational diabetes will help make sure you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. You’re at risk for gestational diabetes if you:

  • Had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • Have given birth to a baby who weighed over 9 pounds
  • Are overweight
  • Are more than 25 years old
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Have a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Are an African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander person
  • Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth, but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes. Your baby is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen and to develop type 2 diabetes later in life

Before you get pregnant, you may be able to prevent gestational diabetes with lifestyle changes. These include losing weight if you’re overweight, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular physical activity.

Type 1 diabetes differs from type 2 in that type 1 is an auto-immune condition that occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. People with type 1 are insulin-dependent for life and there currently is no cure. Unless detected early, at diagnosis, people (with type 2 or type 1) have too much sugar built up in their blood and exhibit symptoms such as extreme thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, weight gain or loss, recurrent infections and headaches.

While type 2 and type 1 differ in nature, where they often meet is in complications. Prolonged levels of high blood sugar in anyone with diabetes can lead to long-term complications ranging from heart disease, kidney failure, foot, eye and nerve damage to skin disorders.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases if one continues with a diet high in processed foods in combination with a sedentary lifestyle, lack of stress management and other factors related to type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes is a serious health condition where your blood sugar or A1C levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

The rate of people with prediabetes has been increasing sharply for many years in the United States and across the globe.

The Center for Disease Control offers the following statistics about prediabetes:

  • In the United States, 96 million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes
  • 26.4 million people aged 65 years or older have prediabetes
  • 85 percent of people with prediabetes do not know they have it
  • 37.3 million people have type 2 diabetes, but 8.5 million of these people do not know they have it

A 2012 study projected that more than 470 million people worldwide will have prediabetes by 2030.
You can have prediabetes for years but have no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes show up. Risk factors for prediabtes:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Race and ethnicity are also a factor: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk

Prediabetes raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, but there’s good news. If you have prediabetes, lifestyle changes can help you take healthy steps to reverse it. If you have any of the risk factors for prediabtes, have Lifeline Patient Advocates make an appointment for you to talk with your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested.

If you have any of the following diabetes symptoms, Lifeline Patient Advocates can make an appointment with you or your loved one’s doctor to get your blood sugar tested:

  • Urinate (pee) a lot, often at night
  • Are very thirsty
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Are very hungry
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Feel very tired
  • Have very dry skin
  • Have sores that heal slowly
  • Have more infections than usual
  • Less energy
  • Fruity smelling breath
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid, heavy breathing

Before developing type 2 diabetes, most people have prediabetes; their blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough yet for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. You can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with proven, achievable lifestyle changes.

Lifeline Patient Advocates teaches self-care behaviors that are key to diabetes management. We can help you reverse prediabetes, prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, and lower your risk of diabetes complications and depression. We will give you the tools you need to better understand your diabetes so you KNOW why your blood sugar levels are higher than normal or why your A1C is high and what YOU can do about it. Our diabetes coaching and education will save you time, save you money, and enhance your quality of life.

We offer 1:1 remote diabetes coaching and support via phone or video conferencing using Skype or FaceTime.

We will ask you to track what you are doing for a minimum of 7 days (what you eat, your insulin and/or other medications, your blood sugar, exercise, etc.) so we can analyze that data and help you create a plan that’s right for YOU and YOUR GOALS. Our module includes the following:

  • An analysis of the data you send and suggestions for improvements
  • One 45-minute to 1 hour coaching session to make an action plan together
  • One 45-minute to 1 hour coaching session 1-2 weeks later to evaluate progress and make adjustments to the plan

Still Have Questions About How We Can Help?

Please contact us if you have questions about how we can help or if you or your loved one would like more information about what we do. We provide in-person services to patients in North Texas & phone or video conferencing services nationwide.