Home Health What Exactly Is Diabetes and Why Do People Develop It?

What Exactly Is Diabetes and Why Do People Develop It?


Around 415 million people around the world are living with diabetes. That equates to about one in eleven people. And that figure is expected to rise to 642 million people by 2040. Furthermore, it is estimated that 46% of people with diabetes are undiagnosed. That is perhaps because people do not fully comprehend what diabetes is and how it can develop. 

The Different Types of Diabetes 

The two primary forms of diabetes are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, but the latter accounts for approximately 90% of all diabetes cases. When you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas makes no or very little insulin, which is the hormone that helps your blood sugar enter cells to be used for energy. Type 2 diabetes generally concerns insulin resistance, meaning your body does not fully respond to the hormone of insulin. When insulin does not work correctly, blood glucose levels keep rising. In some people, that can lead to exhaustion of the pancreas and result in less and less insulin production. 

There is also prediabetes, which means you have a higher blood sugar level than usual. The level is not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes, but you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes unless you make lifestyle changes. Another form of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which can occur during pregnancy. When your pancreas cannot keep up, too little glucose enters cells, and therefore too much stays in the blood, which results in gestational diabetes. 

How is diabetes diagnosed? 

Diabetes is primarily diagnosed with a1c tests, which are also known as glycated hemoglobin tests. The test informs doctors about what percentage of the hemoglobin in your red blood cells is coated in sugar. By measuring your levels, doctors can assess your average blood sugar levels over the previous few months. The more sugar that is in your blood, the more sugar-coated hemoglobin there will be in the blood cells. It takes time to lower your a1c levels, but lowering a1c quickly can be accomplished more easily by making changes to your lifestyle, such as dietary changes and taking medications. If your a1c levels fall between 5.7% and 6.4%, it means you have prediabetes. If the levels are above 6.4%, it indicates you have type 2 diabetes. 

Why do people develop diabetes? 

The exact cause of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is unknown. However, it is thought to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic susceptibility factors. Being overweight is strongly linked to getting type 2 diabetes, but not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight. Other high-risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes include:

  •   An unhealthy diet.
  •   Physical inactivity.
  •   High blood pressure.
  •   Increasing age.
  •   Impaired glucose tolerance. 

Is type 2 diabetes preventable? 

The good news is most people can prevent getting type 2 diabetes via a healthy diet and regular physical activity. The former involves reducing the number of calories you eat and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats. You should also eat lots of fiber and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and added sugar. 

Is type 2 diabetes treatable? 

When a healthy lifestyle is not enough to keep blood sugar levels under control, people may develop type 2 diabetes. They may need to take oral medication to treat diabetes, and combination therapies could be prescribed. When oral medicines are not sufficient to control blood sugar levels, people with type 2 diabetes could need insulin injections.