The holiday season places stress on everyone’s diet, but it poses additional challenges for the 8% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes. “Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose, either due to defects in insulin production, insulin action or both.
“Thanks to medical advances and our improved understanding of the disease, it’s now possible for most diabetic patients to manage their disease through lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, and by taking medication, if necessary.
There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. “Conventional thinking is that type 1 diabetes affects only children and type 2 only affects adults, but we now know that many patients don’t fit that pattern.
“Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops making insulin and may actually occur in adults,” says Weinstein. “Type 2 generally often takes the form of insulin resistance, in which the body’s cells aren’t using or responding to the insulin properly, and is increasingly occurring in overweight children.”
While doctors haven’t pinpointed the exact cause of diabetes, it appears to be due to a combination of genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors. “Groups considered at elevated risk are those who are over the age of 45, are overweight and sedentary, or who have a family history of diabetes, high fasting glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol,” says Weinstein.
“Certain racial and ethnic groups are also at high risk, including blacks and hispanics,” she says. Women who have had gestational diabetes or a baby who weighed over 9 pounds are at additional risk.
Type 2 diabetes generally worsens in severity over time. “Diabetes begins as insulin resistance, then as the demand for insulin overwhelms the pancreas’ capabilities, eventually an insulin deficiency develops,” says Weinstein.
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