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What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar, or glucose. Normally, the pancreas releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. However, when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body doesn’t respond appropriately to insulin, diabetes can occur. Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel. If you have diabetes, no matter which type, it means that you have too much glucose in your blood, which can lead to serious health problems. Chronic diabetes conditions include Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include pre-diabetes, which occurs when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Another is gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy but may resolve after the baby is delivered. For someone without diabetes, a fasting blood sugar on awakening should be under 100 mg/dl. Before-meal normal sugars are 70–99 mg/dl. Speak with your doctor to learn more and always go for annual physical exams/blood work to keep on top of your levels.

A key component to managing diabetes, regardless of which condition you have, is to maintain a healthy weight through a healthy diet and exercise program. Studies show that following a “diabetes diet,” rich in nutrients & low in fat and calories, is best. This generally consists of eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while cutting down on animal products, refined carbohydrates, and sweets. Speak with a registered dietitian to help create a meal plan that will work specifically for your needs. In addition, everyone needs regular aerobic exercise. Exercise lowers your blood sugar level by moving sugar into your cells where it’s used for energy. Speak with your physician about the appropriate exercise regimen for you.

By Gina Stallone

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