The other form of diabetes tends to creep up on people, taking years to develop into full-blown diabetes. It begins when muscle and other cells stop responding to insulin’s open-up-for-glucose signal. The body responds by making more and more insulin, essentially trying to ram blood sugar into cells. Eventually, the insulin-making cells get exhausted and begin to fail. This is type 2 diabetes.
Random blood sugar test. Blood sugar values are expressed in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Regardless of when you last ate, a blood sample showing that your blood sugar level is 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) or higher suggests diabetes, especially if you also have signs and symptoms of diabetes, such as frequent urination and extreme thirst.
In addition to the millions of adults with diabetes, another 57 million adults have “pre-diabetes.” (7) This early warning sign is characterized by high blood sugar levels on a glucose tolerance test or a fasting glucose test. Whether pre-diabetes expands into full-blown type 2 diabetes is largely up to the individual. Making changes in weight, exercise, and diet can not only prevent pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes, but can also return blood glucose levels to the normal range.
Other than gestational (which occurs in pregnant women and usually disappears after giving birth), there are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes accounts for only 5 percent of all instances in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes is the most common, clocking in as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Type 2 diabetes is also the only one that’s considered preventable. It generally develops later in life, sometimes as a consequence of lifestyle or other health factors.
Diabetes is a disease that is increasingly making its way into the public consciousness, and not in a good way. In fact, according to this article from USA Today, diabetes has a greater health impact on Americans than heart disease, substance use disorder or COPD, with 30.3 million Americans diagnosed with the illness — and many more who are at risk for developing it.
To hit your blood sugar level target, eat a variety of foods but monitor portions for foods with a high carbohydrate content, says Alison Massey, RD, CDE, the director of diabetes education at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “[Foods high in carbohydrates] have the most impact on blood sugar level. This is why some people with diabetes count their carbohydrates at meals and snacks,” she says.
In general, prediabetes is not associated with any specific symptoms. However, there may be indicators of problems in blood sugar metabolism that can be seen years before the development of overt diabetes. Health-care professionals in the field of endocrinology are now routinely looking at these indicators in patients who are high risk for developing diabetes.