Prevention First


Diabetes mellitus often simply referred to as diabetes—is a condition in which a person has a high blood sugar (glucose) level as a result of the body either not producing enough insulin, or because body cells do not properly respond to the insulin that is produced. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas which enables body cells to absorb glucose, to turn into energy. If the body cells do not absorb the glucose, the glucose accumulates in the blood (hyperglycemia), leading to various potential medical complications.

There are many types of diabetes, the most common of which are:

  • Type 1 diabetes: results from the body's failure to produce insulin and requires the person to inject insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes: results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency.
  • Gestational diabetes: is when pregnant women, who have never had diabetes before, have a high blood glucose level during pregnancy.


Causes and Risk Factors of Diabetes

    The cause of Type 1 diabetes is genetically based, coupled with an abnormal immune response.

    The cause of Type 2 diabetes is unknown. Medical experts believe that Type 2 diabetes has a genetic component, but other factors also put people at risk for the disease. These factors include:

  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Obesity (weighing 20 percent above a healthy body weight).
  • Advanced age.
  • Unhealthy diet.
  • Family history of diabetes.
  • Improper functioning of the pancreas.
  • Medication (cortisone and some high blood pressure drugs).
  • Women having given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 lbs.
  • Previously diagnosed gestational diabetes.
  • Previously diagnosed impaired glucose tolerance.
  • Type 2 diabetes is determined primarily by lifestyle factors and genes. These are:

    • Diet
    • Obesity
    • Virus infections
    • Age
    • Emotional stress
    • People who smoke
    • People of certain races

Sign and symptoms

Usually, the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are obvious. That is not true for Type 2. Many people with Type 2 do not discover they have diabetes until they are treated for a complication such as heart disease, blood vessel disease (atherosclerosis), stroke, blindness, skin ulcers, kidney problems, nerve trouble or impotence.

Many of the signs of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are similar. In both, there is too much glucose in the blood and not enough in the cells of your body. High glucose levels in Type 1 are due to a lack of insulin because the insulin producing cells have been destroyed.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body's cells become resistant to insulin that is being produced. Either way, your cells aren’t getting the glucose that they need, or your body lets you know by giving you these signs and symptoms.

The warning signs and symptoms are:

Type 1:

  • Frequent urination.
  • Increased thirst.
  • Extreme hunger.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurred vision.
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting.

Type 2:

Any Type I symptom, plus:
  • Unexplained weight gain.
  • Pain.
  • Cramping.
  • Tingling or numbness in your feet.
  • Unusual drowsiness.
  • Frequent vaginal or skin infections.
  • Dry, itchy skin.
  • Slow healing sores.

  • Note: If a person is experiencing these symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately.


  • There is no foolproof way to prevent diabetes, but steps can be taken to improve the chances of avoiding it. These steps include exercise, weight loss, dietary control, avoiding alcochol use and smoking.

Prevention of type 1 diabetes

  • Unfortunately, while it is possible to prevent type 2 or adult onset diabetes mellitus, we don't yet know of a way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus is also known as juvenile onset or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). It is an autoimmune disease that damages cells in the pancreas so that they can no longer make insulin.
  • Although type 1 diabetes is a genetic disorder, the way you inherit diabetes is very complex. A person's risk of developing type 1 diabetes is thought to be determined by several genes and unknown environmental factors.
  • It isn't possible to exactly predict who will get type 1 diabetes, it is possible to do tests to see who is at higher risk. This includes:
    • Testing for islet cell antibodies (ICA)
    • Genetic testing for type 1 diabetes

Prevention of type 2 diabetes

  • Unlike type 1 diabetes, it is usually possible to prevent type 2 diabetes by eating healthy, maintaining a healthy body mass index and promoting weight loss in overweight children.

Risk prevention

  • Understand Insulin Resistance and Watch for the Signs.
    The process of Type 2 diabetes begins years or even decades before the diagnosis of diabetes, with insulin resistance. Understand the signs to watch for so you can intervene early.
  • Get Regular Screening
    If you are at risk for diabetes or insulin resistance, be sure to get an annual fasting blood glucose test. If you see it rising over time, even if still in the normal range, this is a sign that your body is having more trouble processing sugar (all carbohydrate breaks down into sugar).
  • Exercise
    You don't have to live your life at the gym to reap the benefits of exercise. A brisk half hour walk 5 days per week can be enough to help improve insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetes. Also, just being generally more active can help a lot. To motivate yourself, get a pedometer to count your steps and gradually increase the number of steps you are taking.
  • Weight Control, With Reasonable Goals
    A relatively small weight loss of 7% of body weight has been shown to help prevent diabetes. Strive to stay at your own lowest sustainable weight, even if that is above what the charts say you should be. It is better to aim for a smaller weight loss and be able to keep that weight off than aim for an unrealistically low number, which could cause a "rebound" effect.
  • Carbohydrate Reduction
    Although the American Diabetes Association continues to encourage a high carbohydrate, low fat diet, this is apparently because they don't think people can stick to a lower carbohydrate diet. But think about it: if your body isn't processing sugar well, doesn't it make sense to stop feeding it so much food that turns into sugar? You can eat a healthy, balanced, diet that is lower in carbohydrates. The amount of reduction that is optimal for you will depend partly on how impaired your own glucose tolerance is.
    Consider Home Blood Glucose Testing
  • If you have found that your fasting blood glucose is rising over time, even if it is normal and certainly if you "officially" have impaired glucose intolerance, strongly consider getting a home glucose meter and testing your own blood to see if you can determine ways of eating, exercise, supplements, etc, that help lower and stabilize your blood glucose.