What is Diabetes?Info circle related to diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

Possible symptoms may include some or all of the following: frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, sudden vision changes, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, feeling very tired much of the time, very dry skin, sores that are slow to heal, more infections than usual.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.​

Types of Diabetes

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

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that 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. Read more.

Type 2 Diabetes
With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (but more and more in children, teens, and young adults). You may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active. Read more.

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 but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. Your baby is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too. Read more.

Find out if you are at risk...

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.​ Read more.

How do you prevent it?

Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week. Eat a variety of food that are low in fat and reduce the number of calories you eat per day.​ Read more.

What do you do if you have it?

  • Eat a healthy diabetic diet (see a registered dietician for a meal plan), maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, manage stress, avoid tobacco, and take medications as directed
  • Visit your Primary Care Provider regularly, include foot exam and an annual eye exams.
  • Learn how to achieve target glucose levels and avoid complications by meeting with a diabetes educator and/or registered dietician. Examine your feet daily.
  • Visit the National Diabetes Education Program website that allows you to enter information and tailor resources to your needs. Provided by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Diabetes Self-Management Education

Diabetes doesn’t have to control your life. A Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Program (DSMES) can help you gain the education and tools you need to manage your diabetes. DSMES is a recognized part of your diabetes care and is covered at 100% through your State Health Plan benefits.

It is offered through accredited diabetes education programs across North Carolina, which has met vigorous criteria set by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. A Diabetes Care and Education Specialist can make managing your diabetes easier. They will work with you to develop a plan to stay healthy and give you the tools and ongoing support to make that plan a regular part of your life.

Classes are offered individually and in groups. Many of these programs also offer virtual options. This means you can gain valuable tools and education from the comfort of your home. A referral from your regular doctor may be required to register.

To learn more please visit the Blue Cross NC Living Well with Diabetes page.

Diabetes Resources

American Diabetes Association
The ADA offers a vast array of diabetes information. While it addresses risk and general diabetes basics, the Food & Fitness section will help you learn what you can eat and how to plan meals and snacks. The fitness section also helps you understand the role that exercise plays in diabetes control and in overall health and wellness.

CDC - Diabetes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides lots of educational information to help you better understand this disease, information on eating well, portion size, grocery shopping, reading food labels and surviving holidays and special occasions.

Diabetes North Carolina
Diabetes North Carolina focuses on provider, consumer and legislative information to increase your knowledge on how to prevent and manage diabetes. Educate yourself on N.C. diabetes legislation and how this may impact you or a loved one.

American Association of Diabetes Educators
The American Association of Diabetes Educators has a number of resources available on different themes that are designed to help you navigate issues you may face including self-care behaviors, blood glucose monitoring, insulin injections, medication taking, peer support and healthy coping.

National Diabetes Education Program
The National Diabetes Education Program offers a broad range of diabetes information regarding A1C testing, insulin resistance, diabetic neuropathy and conditions that may systemically impact you.

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