Defining diabetes

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:46 pm
Diabetes (die-uh-BEE-tees) is a metabolic disorder, in which your body has trouble converting food into energy. It's characterized by a blood sugar, or glucose, level that's chronically high. When you eat, carbohydrates and some proteins are broken down into sugar, causing your blood glucose level to rise. The sugar travels to cells throughout the body, to be used as fuel. But sugar needs insulin, before it can move from the blood into the cells. If you're diabetic, problems with your insulin prevent this transfer. Thus, sugar can't leave the blood, and glucose levels remain high. When the problem is caused by too little insulin, you're said to be a type 1 diabetic (die-uh-BET-ick). When you produce insulin, but your cells are resistant to its effect, you're said to be a type 2 diabetic. Though there's no cure for diabetes, the disease can be managed with diet, exercise, and sometimes, medication. Type 1 diabetics have to take daily insulin injections. If left untreated, diabetes can have severe consequences, including damage to the kidneys, blood vessels, heart, eyes, and nervous system. However, research has shown that keeping your blood sugar close to normal can significantly reduce the risk of complications. For more information on diabetes, consult a doctor in your area.

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