Understanding and Preventing Diabetes

SEWA-AIFW is celebrating health this month! Today, we are discussing diabetes. Diabetes is an incredibly common chronic health condition, affecting more than 34 million Americans (1 in 10) every year. Of that massive number, nearly 20% don’t even know they have it.

Diabetes is a chronic, or long-term, condition where the body does not produce enough insulin, or can’t use the insulin it produces very well. This is a problem because insulin is the hormone that regulates blood glucose, or blood sugar. When the body can’t use insulin very well or produce enough of it, then too much glucose remains in the blood stream.

Over time, high blood glucose can lead to other serious health conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and even blindness. While there is yet no known cure, there are ways people can work to prevent diabetes or manage their symptoms.

What Are The Types of Diabetes?

There are three general categories of diabetes. Most people have heard of these, but many don’t quite understand the differences. The three types are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 is much less common than type 2 — about 5-10% of diabetes cases are type 1. Current understanding indicates that type 1 diabetes may be caused by an autoimmune reaction where the body mistakenly attacks itself. The result of this is that the body doesn’t produce insulin. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often develop very quickly, and generally develop in children, teens, and young adults.

People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily to survive. There is currently no known prevention.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is much more common — about 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2. In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t use insulin as well as it should and can’t keep blood glucose at a normal level. This type of diabetes develops slowly over years and is usually diagnosed in adults. However, children and teens are being diagnosed more and more.

Someone with type 2 diabetes may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get blood glucose tests if you’re at risk. Healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise, clean diet, and losing weight can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes altogether.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never before had diabetes. Natural changes during pregnancy can cause increased insulin resistance and lead to developing type 2 diabetes afterwards. It usually goes away after the baby is born, but about 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

It’s important to get your blood glucose tested if you’re at risk so you can make a health plan. Regular exercise is an effective prevention method, but it’s best to check with a doctor.


When someone has prediabetes, it means that their blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It’s incredibly common — 88 million Americans, or 1 in 3, have prediabetes. The vast majority do not even know they have it, which is serious because prediabetes puts you at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Many don’t know they have prediabetes because it can take a long time for symptoms to show up. Without getting blood glucose tested, many won’t know they were prediabetic until they are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors for Prediabetes

There are a few very common risk factors for prediabetes. They aren’t guarantors that you will have it, but with 1 in 3 adults being prediabetic, it’s still a good idea to be watchful.

These are a few of the most common risk factors for prediabetes:

  • Being overweight

  • Aged 45 or older

  • Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes

  • Getting exercise less than 3 times per week

  • Having gestational diabetes while pregnant

  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)