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Diabetes (Latin: diabetes mellitus) is a disease that affects the way the body uses glucose (blood sugar). As the body's primary source of energy, glucose is a critical component of good health. Diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, continues to grow at an alarming rate. Even more alarming is the development of diabetes at younger and younger ages. The National Institutes of Health reports that over 20 million Americans have diabetes. This equates to over 7% of Americans with diabetes. Approximately one third of these Americans are unaware they have the disease, as the symptoms are often misunderstood, and develop very gradually over time. Diabetes is listed as the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. However, many experts believe this number is low, as it often goes unreported as a cause of death. Diabetes contributes to the development of a host of other illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

The action of insulin in healthy individuals permits glucose to enter the body's cells. Secreted by the pancreas, Insulin is a hormone that acts on the cells so that they allows glucose in. When a person is a diabetic, this process doesn't work properly or doesn't work at all.

There are two main reasons why this happens. The first is that the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or cells in the body are not able to respond to insulin in the usual manner.

The two primary types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes develops when the pancreas manufactures little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes. The name was changed when is became apparent that adults too get the disease. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2. It affects 5 to 10% of people with diabetes. It should be noted that most people with other types of diabetes also often require insulin.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas produces insulin but in an insufficient amount, or when the body's cells develop a resistance to insulin. Some type 2 diabetics require insulin. Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes or non insulin dependent diabetes. After discovering that many young people also develop this type of diabetes, the name was changed to type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes is the most common form of the disease and affects 90 to 95% of those suffering from diabetes.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are serious diseases that can lead to death. The accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream typically causes disastrous consequences for many vital organs within the body. There is no cure for diabetes, and at least 200,000 Americans die of the disease every year.

Other Types of Diabetes

Maturity-Onset Diabetes of Youth (MODY) is a rare form of Type 2 Diabetes. Those affected by MODY are typically teenagers who have inherited the disease.

Gestational Diabetes usually develops in the second or third trimester in pregnant women. It is caused when the production of hormones produced by the placenta negatively influence the role insulin plays in the body. Gestational diabetes disappears after childbirth, however, over 50% of those who have suffered this types of diabetes will eventually develop Type 2 Diabetes Approximately 2 to 5% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. It should be noted that Type 1 Diabetes can develop during pregnancy as well. Although rare, it heightens blood sugar levels such that insulin therapy is necessary.

Diabetes caused by Illness & Medications is believed to affect only 1 to 2% of those with diabetes. Some illnesses and medications can impact the normal production and/or action of insulin. Procedures and drugs known to have caused diabetes to develop include; surgical removal or inflammation of the pancreas, disorders affecting the adrenal gland, malnutrition, some infections, and corticosteroid drugs.

Experts agree that prevention is the best way to combat diabetes. By maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a balanced, healthy diet, and getting sufficient exercise are the keys to diabetes prevention. It is widely agreed that a lack of these three essentials of lifestyle is the primary cause of the massive growth of childhood diabetics. Diabetics are encouraged to eat a balanced diet and exercise daily, as well as maintain a strict medicinal regiment that controls blood sugar levels.

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