Many of our patients have requested a simplified explanation on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Our in-house registered dietician, Nicola Drabble, has the answers.
Glucose, a sugar found mainly in sugary foods and drinks and starches, provides the main source of energy in the body. Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, helps the body to use glucose for energy. It works like a lock and key - when the cell needs energy, insulin acts like a key to unlock the cell. This opens the cell so that the sugar can enter and be used for energy. Without energy the body cannot function properly. If there is no or not enough insulin the body glucose level rises. A normal glucose level for a non diabetic person is between 4 – 8 mmol/L and does not go higher than this even after eating.
Diabetes is a condition, in which there are high blood sugar (glucose) levels because your body may produce none, or not enough of a hormone called insulin, or your body does not respond properly to the insulin you produce.
There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1 (insulin dependent): this is when the body has a severe lack of its own insulin. It usually affects people under 40 and is treated with insulin injections.
Type 2 (non-insulin dependent): appears to have contributing factors including genetic factors, age and weight. Although the body producers insulin, the insulin produced is not enough or does not work properly. It can be treated by diet alone, diet and tablets or diet and insulin injections.
It is important in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, to control the glucose levels, as high glucose levels in your blood can damage your heart, eyes, feet and kidneys. Lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and exercise will help to control your blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of developing other illnesses such as cardio vascular disease.