What is diabetes?

 Diabetes is a disorder in which blood sugar is too high because the body does not make enough insulin to meet its needs or the body does not respond to the insulin it produces as it should. . Insulin is important because it moves glucose, a simple sugar in the blood, into the body’s cells. It also plays other roles in the regulation of metabolism.

In medicine, this disorder is referred to as diabetes mellitus , but it is popularly known simply as “diabetes”. Diabetes also presents as diabetes insipidus . Relatively rare, it affects the kidneys which lose the ability to hold water, leading to excessive urine output. When a person refers to diabetes, it is called diabetes mellitus.

Foods eaten provide the body with glucose that cells use for energy. If insulin is not available, or if its action no longer allows glucose to enter the cells, the glucose remains in the blood. And, high blood glucose is toxic. In addition, cells that do not get glucose are deprived of the fuel they need. These 2 problems cause the symptoms of diabetes.

There are 2 main types of diabetes mellitus: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes . Over 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. From coast to coast, Canada has over 3 million people living with diabetes. However, because this condition often sets in without causing any symptoms, many people will not find out about its presence until after a medical examination.

Type 1 diabetes has long been referred to as “juvenile” diabetes because it usually occurs in people under the age of 30. Anyone with type 1 diabetes should be given insulin daily.

Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as “adult” diabetes, usually occurs in people over the age of 40. Type 2 diabetes is usually found in the family history of people with it who are very often overweight. The treatment is a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Some people with type 2 diabetes will need insulin at some point. Certain ethnic groups are at greater risk for type 2 diabetes. These include people of Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian or African descent, and many more.

Diabetes also manifests itself, but less frequently, in the form of gestational diabetes which only lasts for the duration of a pregnancy. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, up to 18% of women whose ancestors were First Nations will be affected by gestational diabetes compared to about 3.7% of women outside this group. The problem usually goes away after childbirth, but women who have been affected by gestational diabetes are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes in the long term.

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