Frequently asked questions on important topics

Zumba Fitness at Kemps Corner with Zumba Fitness Instructor ZIN Swetha Jairam
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Research Expert Panel Member ZIN Swetha Jairam
 
 

Diabetes

What causes diabetes?

Researchers believe diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While a person may be genetically predisposed to having either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it takes an environmental trigger to actually set the wheels in motion.

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What tests are recommended for diagnosing diabetes?

A fasting blood plasma glucose test, performed first thing in the morning, is the preferred test for diagnosing type 1 or type 2 diabetes. However, a diagnosis of diabetes can be made based on a random (i.e., any time of day) plasma glucose test and an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The findings should be confirmed with a follow up test on a subsequent day.

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What should my blood glucose levels test at?

Everyone has individual goals for diabetes management. You should work with your doctor to set your target goals for self-monitored blood glucose levels. However, the American Diabetes Association suggests the following general guidelines for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes*:

  • Fasting or before meals (preprandial) – 90 to 130 mg/dl (5.0 to 7.2 mmol/l)
  • At bedtime – 110 to 150 mg/dl (6.1 to 8.3 mmol/l)
  • Two hours after eating (postprandial) – under 180 mg/dl (<10.0 mmol/l)
    The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists suggests slightly different goals for SMBG*:
    -Fasting – <110 mg/dl
    -Two hours postprandial – <140 mg/dl

    *Note: all values are plasma.

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Is type 2 diabetes curable or reversible?

 At this point in time, there is no known cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes. While symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be well controlled with diet and exercise in some people with type 2 diabetes, they continue to have the disease even if their blood glucose levels remain within target ranges.

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What is an A1c test?

An A1c test, also called a hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, or glycosylated hemoglobin test, is a measurement of your long-term blood glucose management. The blood test, which the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends at least twice yearly, represents an average of the last three months of blood glucose levels. The ADA suggests that patients and their providers try to keep their A1c at 7% or lower, while the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) recommends a target of 6.5% or less.

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I have type 2 diabetes, and just started insulin. Does that mean I’m type 1 now?

A: No. Many people with type 2 diabetes who can’t adequately control their blood glucose levels with diet, exercise, or oral medications go on insulin. The type of diabetes you have is defined by the cause, not the treatment. People with type 1 diabetes have experienced beta cell destruction and make insufficient insulin to control their blood glucose levels. People with type 2 generally make enough insulin, but they are resistant to its effects. To further complicate things, people with type 1 diabetes can become insulin resistant, and people with type 2 diabetes can experience some degree of beta cell destruction. However, this usually occurs many years post-diagnosis, and doesn’t change the fundamental type of diabetes you have.

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How does exercise lower blood glucose levels?

Several ways. When you work out, your muscles use glycogen-a glucose source stored in muscle tissue-for energy. With prolonged exercise, the muscles take up glucose at an accelerated rate, turning to blood glucose once glycogen stores have been depleted. In addition, if you have type 2 diabetes and are overweight, exercise can help you lose excess body fat, which will in turn decrease your insulin resistance. The blood glucose lowering affect of exercise can last for up to 72 hours after a work out. It’s important to note, however, that exercise can also have a hyperglycemic (or high blood glucose) effect on some people. In particular, long sessions of very strenuous exercise can cause blood sugars to rise. Always consult with your diabetes care provider before starting an exercise program.

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Why are carbohydrates so important in diabetes care?

Carbohydrates are important because they’re your body’s main source of glucose. Overload on dietary carbohydrates and your blood glucose levels rise. That’s why knowing the quantity of carbohydrates you’re eating, and other related nutrient qualities of your food, is so important.

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Now that I have diabetes, do I cut all sugar out of my diet?

Eating right with diabetes is more about moderation and healthy food choices then severe dietary restriction. While you do need to manage your intake of all carbohydrates (i.e., starchy vegetables and grains and cereals as well as sugar), people with diabetes can occasionally enjoy foods containing sugar as part of their overall daily meal plan. It should be remembered, however, that sugar is calorie-rich and nutrient-poor, so moderation is key. Many people with diabetes prefer to use artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes for its lower calorie content and minimal impact on blood glucose levels. A registered dietitian can help you create a meal plan that works for you.

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What makes my blood sugar go up?

Blood glucose levels go high for a variety of reasons-illness, stress, injury, improper diet, and medication, to name a few. In addition, some prescription drugs taken for other conditions (e.g., estrogens and corticosteroids) can cause hyperglycemia. If your blood glucose levels are consistently running too high, talk to your doctor about possible culprits and how to adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

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Why do I go to bed with normal blood sugar levels and wake up with high levels when I haven’t eaten all night?

Morning highs are typically caused by one of two things: The Somogyi effect (also called rebound hyperglycemia) or Dawn Phenomenon.
With the Somogyi effect, you may be experiencing hypoglycemia (or low blood glucose episodes) during the night. In reaction to these untreated lows, your body releases stress hormones and the subsequent high blood glucose levels that you’re seeing in the morning. The Dawn Phenomenon is an early-morning (4:00 to 8:00 AM) natural rise in blood glucose levels that is caused by a release of hormones as your body prepares to meet the day.
Sometimes these morning highs can be avoided by a bedtime snack at night or other adjustments in insulin or medication. Talk to your doctor about any unexplained irregularities in blood glucose levels and how you might adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

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What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition that precedes type 2 diabetes. It’s also called impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or impaired fasting glucose (IFG), depending on the test used to diagnose it. People with prediabetes have higher than normal blood glucose levels, but they aren’t elevated enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

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