What is Diabetes? | Carson Tahoe Health

Diabetes is a group of diseases defined by higher than normal blood sugar (blood glucose) levels.  There may be several problems in the body such as too little insulin being produced by the pancreas or the inability of the body to use the insulin successfully (called insulin resistance).

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas can no longer make enough insulin to sustain life.  It is most often related to an auto-immune response which targets and destroys the beta cells (the cells that make insulin in the pancreas).  It often starts in childhood but can happen at any age. Those with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin the rest of their life.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common.  About 90-95% of those with diabetes have Type 2.  They still continue to produce some insulin, although insulin production often decreases over a period of time.  They most often are also insulin resistant.  Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults; however it can also occur in childhood.  Gestational diabetes is most often related to Type 2 diabetes and occurs in pregnancy.

Pre-diabetes is most often the precursor to Type 2 diabetes.  The blood sugar is elevated but not quite to the “cut off” to be diagnosed as diabetes.  The progression to Type 2 diabetes may be delayed by years by losing 5 – 7 % of body weight and increasing exercise to 150 minutes per week.

What are the risk factors for developing diabetes?

  • Heredity
  • Ethnic origin
  • Type 1 – unknown environmental factors
  • Type 2 – increased age, weight, and inactivity

How is diabetes diagnosed?

The American Diabetes Association recommends laboratory blood sugar screening.  The method and instructions for the test will depend on what the physician has ordered.

  • 2 or more abnormal lab values
  • Fasting blood sugar 100 – 125 for pre-diabetes
  • Fasting blood sugar 126 or over for diabetes
  • An A1C test of 6.5% or over

How is diabetes treated?

  • Referral to a CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator)
  • Appropriate food plan with carbohydrate counting
  • Physical activity and exercise
  • Self blood sugar testing at home
  • Adding oral diabetes tablets and/or insulin for Type 2
  • Adding insulin immediately for Type 1

What can you do to stay healthy even though you have diabetes?

  • Get educated and develop a self care plan.
  • Have routine physician and diabetes educator visits.
  • Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time frame specific) to help you reach your long term goals.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Get up and get active.
  • Maintain an appropriate weight.
  • Take your medications according to the prescription and tell your health care provider if you have any problems.
  • Monitor your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
  • Check your feet every day and have any injuries treated immediately.
  • Have a comprehensive eye exam every year.
  • Check for sleep disorders (sleep apnea).
  • Quit using tobacco products, excessive alcohol, and “recreational” drugs.
  • Learn how stress impacts your blood sugar and takes step to manage it.

Nancy Raymond, RN is a Certified Diabetes Educator and the Diabetes Education Coordinator at Carson Tahoe Health.

At Carson Tahoe Health we have a Diabetes Education Department staffed with Certified Diabetes Educators (RN or RD) who can help you learn to manage your diabetes.  We will tailor a meal plan for you and provide a free blood sugar testing starter kit.  You will need a physician referral.  Call (775) 445-5500 for a private appointment.  Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance plans have a benefit for Diabetes Self Management Training.  Call the Diabetes Experts at (775) 445-8607 with questions.