Introduction – Diabetes


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Diabetes is a disease that develops when the body does not make enough insulin, or cannot use the insulin it makes. A gland in the body, called the pancreas, makes insulin. The food we eat breaks down into glucose and is transported by the bloodstream. Insulin moves the glucose from the bloodstream into body cells. Glucose (also called blood sugar) provides the cells with the energy to do their jobs.

Introduction – Diabetes



When the body stops making enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood and cannot get into the body cells. People may have very high blood glucose levels when their diabetes is first diagnosed.



Signs of diabetes include:


extreme thirst and frequent urination

increased hunger

blurred vision

tiredness or fatigue

unexplained weight loss and

frequent vaginal yeast infections in women

The types of diabetes include Type I, Type II, or Gestational.



Type I diabetes, or juvenile-onset diabetes, occurs when the body stops making insulin. It usually occurs in children and adults less than 40 years old. It develops quickly, sometimes within days. Treatment requires daily insulin shots. Without these daily shots, the cells will starve, and the person will die. Treatment also includes monitoring blood sugar levels, eating healthy foods, and exercise.



In Type II diabetes, or adult onset diabetes, the body cannot use the insulin it makes. This usually occurs in adults over 40 who are overweight, do not exercise, and have a family history of diabetes. Type II diabetes is sometimes controlled by losing weight, or making food and activity changes. Some people may need to take pills or insulin shots. Diet and exercise are necessary parts of the treatment program.



Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and almost always goes away after the baby is born. Treatment begins with diet changes to lower blood glucose levels. Some women require insulin shots during pregnancy only.



Uncontrolled diabetes causes many problems, such as:


heart and kidney disease



nerve damage and

blood flow problems


When a person with diabetes gets ill, blood sugar levels become harder to control. The body releases more sugar into the blood stream to help provide enough energy to fight the illness. For this reason, people with diabetes should never discontinue their diabetic medication when they are ill. If the illness prevents them from taking their medication, they should notify their healthcare provider soon.



It is important to work with the healthcare provider to develop a “sick day plan” ahead of time. The plan should include:


medication instructions

frequency for checking blood sugar levels

checking urine for ketones if the blood sugar is above 250

a list of foods to eat and fluids to drink, if nauseated and

when to call for medical advice such as, if vomiting occurs more than three times in one day or if an illness lasts more than one day

When home alone during an illness, arrange for a friend or family member to check in on you.




People with diabetes should exercise routinely, because exercise plays an important role in regulating blood sugar.




helps the body use insulin more efficiently

prevents or reduces complications and risks associated with diabetes

helps build muscle which can burn fat faster and control blood sugar

assists in weight control

raises the good cholesterol called HDL

improves the ability to do everyday tasks and

helps reduce stress and enhance the sense of well-being

The best types of exercises are aerobic and strength building exercises. Aerobic exercises use the large muscle groups constantly for at least 20 minutes or longer. These exercises include activities like walking, jogging, swimming, and biking. Strength building exercises include stretching, lifting weights, and yoga.



Check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. When blood sugar levels are over 250, exercise can actually increase them. If your blood sugar levels are lower than 250, exercise will help to lower them more.



Low blood sugar can occur with exercise. It may be caused by too much exercise or not enough food. Eating a snack before exercising, and every hour if your exercise activity is extended, can prevent low blood sugar levels.



Be sure to wear proper shoes, socks, and clothing while exercising to avoid blisters or chafing which could result in an infection. Routine exercise will help you feel fit and healthy. Call your healthcare provider if you have difficulty regulating your insulin while exercising.

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