What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that affects the way your body makes or uses insulin, a hormone that enables glucose (sugar) from your blood to enter your cells for energy. When sugar is unable to enter cells, it builds up in your bloodstream. Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause serious health problems affecting your heart, kidneys, nerves, and other organs, so it has to be managed properly.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the body cannot produce any insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to manage their disease by taking insulin.

In type 2 diabetes, the body still makes insulin but is unable to use it properly. The management of type 2 diabetes includes a combination of weight management, eating healthy foods, and exercising. Most people with type 2 diabetes also need to take oral medications or insulin.

What is prediabetes?

This is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. While many cases progress to type 2 diabetes, staying active and eating healthy can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes.

Too many highs and lows?

People with diabetes have to manage high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). The highs and lows can affect your day-to-day life in many ways, from your energy level to having mood swings. Being aware of the symptoms of high and low blood sugar levels is essential for you and your family members in order to prevent medical emergencies.

Symptoms of high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia)

This can happen when you eat too much and don’t have enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar. Stress, such as a cold or virus, can be a culprit as well. The symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • Urinating often
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme hunger or thirst

Symptoms of low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia)

Along with not eating enough carbohydrates, having too much insulin in your body or exercising too much can cause your blood sugar to drop. The symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • Shaking
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme hunger
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Irritability

Most cases of high or low blood sugar levels can be managed at home by following your doctor’s instructions. Checking your blood sugar regularly with a blood glucose meter can help you keep it in your target range and make corrections, if needed.

Living well with diabetes

Whether you’re newly diagnosed with prediabetes or have had diabetes for many years, you can still lead a full and satisfying life. The key to managing blood sugar levels is, in addition to oral medications, weight management, exercise, and eating a healthy diet. Work with your diabetes health care team to build a personalized management plan that takes into account your blood sugar levels, needs, lifestyle, and food preferences. This plan may involve making major changes, some tougher than others. But don’t try to change everything at once. Try to focus on small, achievable goals, such as walking to the corner store if you usually take your car. Although these small changes may not seem like much in the beginning, after a while, they can add up to become part of your daily routine with measurable health benefits.

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