Diabetes is an ongoing health problem in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), over one million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. When left untreated, diabetes can be a life-threatening illness, but with treatment and certain lifestyle modifications, it’s manageable.
At Midwest Regional Health Services, our primary care physicians and staff offer diabetes diagnosis and treatment at our office in Omaha, Nebraska.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the body’s blood sugar levels. After we eat, our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose, the primary source of cellular energy. Insulin helps move glucose through the bloodstream and into the cells so they have the energy they need to function properly. It also helps keep blood sugar levels within a normal range by moving excess glucose into the liver, where it’s stored while glucose levels are high (during and right after a meal), and then released when blood sugar levels fall again.
Diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to use insulin effectively, either by not producing enough of the hormone, or by becoming resistant to it.
There are three forms of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Many people also suffer from a condition known as prediabetes, where blood sugar levels are abnormally high but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.
The ADA estimates that approximately 1.6 million Americans suffer from type 1 diabetes. Type 1 occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin on its own, in which case the person has to take regular insulin shots. It typically develops in childhood, which is why it used to be called “juvenile diabetes,” but it’s also possible for teenagers and adults to develop the condition. There’s no cure for type 1 diabetes, but with regular insulin injections and blood sugar monitoring, type 1 diabetics can live healthy and active lives.
Genetics and family history are among the biggest risk factors for developing type 1 diabetes.
Unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes can be prevented. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body can’t metabolize it effectively (insulin resistance). The majority of diabetes cases in the United States are type 2, and the disease has been identified as a health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, at least 36 million Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes, but the number is likely higher due to undiagnosed cases and lack of adequate health care coverage in vulnerable communities.
Prediabetes is considered a precursor for type 2 diabetes, which affected as many as one in three adults in 2018. The majority of people living with prediabetes are unaware they have elevated blood sugar levels and are at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can be genetic and run in families, but factors like obesity, a poor diet, age, and health problems such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure can also increase the risk of developing it.
Unlike type 1 diabetics, people with type 2 diabetes don’t need to take insulin, because their bodies produce it. Type 2 diabetes is typically managed with medication and through lifestyle modifications to improve the patient’s overall health and treat any underlying medical issues that could contribute to diabetes.
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy when the mother’s blood sugar levels become too high. It’s similar to type 2 diabetes in that the pancreas produces insulin, but it isn’t absorbed properly by the body’s cells.
Gestational diabetes is typically treated with regular blood sugar monitoring throughout the pregnancy, medication, and a healthy diet. While gestational diabetes is specific to pregnancy, it can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Maintaining a healthy weight, a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise are all part of the first line of defense against type 2 diabetes. Regular health screenings to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are also important, especially as you age.
For more information about diabetes management and treatment, call Midwest Regional Health Services at 402-230-7945 to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care providers. You may also request an appointment online.