Insulin is at the heart of both types of diabetes – The Times and Democrat

Posted: December 12, 2020 at 7:52 am


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Dear Doctors: We keep hearing about Type 2 diabetes, and I'm embarrassed to say, I don't actually know what it is. What does it do, and how do I know if I have it?

Dear Reader: To understand diabetes, we should first talk about glucose. That's the sugar our bodies make from the foods that we eat, and which our cells use as their main source of fuel. Glucose travels throughout the body via the blood, which is why it's also often referred to as blood sugar. However, it's not immediately available to the cells. That's where insulin, a hormone manufactured by the pancreas, comes into play. Insulin helps transport glucose from the blood into the cells, where it can be used as energy.

When someone has diabetes, it means that the insulin part of that energy equation isn't working properly. Either the body isn't manufacturing enough -- or any -- insulin, or it isn't responding properly to the insulin that is present. That leads to blood-glucose levels that are too high.

Over time, high blood levels of glucose are dangerous. Adverse health effects include damage to the circulatory system, vision problems, nerve damage, stomach or intestinal problems, slow healing, kidney disease and an increase in the risk of heart disease and stroke. Extremely high blood sugar levels can lead to coma, and even death.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin. It often develops early in life, but can occur at any age. This type of diabetes is managed with diet and exercise, plus the use of medications and insulin.

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Insulin is at the heart of both types of diabetes - The Times and Democrat

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December 12th, 2020 at 7:52 am

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