A diabetes diagnosis can sound scary, especially if you don’t fully understand what that means or why it matters. Learn more about diabetes, including symptoms, testing and treatment options, and prevention tips. Contact Core Medicine of Idaho today to get scheduled for an appointment if you have further questions or concerns!

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus refers to a condition in which your blood sugar, or glucose, remains too high. Glucose is a main energy source for our bodiediabetic treatment in Caldwell, Idahos and is necessary to fuel our brain, muscles, and tissues. Normally, your body uses a hormone called insulin to combine with glucose in order to be effective and give us the energy needed to perform regular activities. If your pancreas isn’t making enough insulin or if your body isn’t using the insulin properly, glucose builds up in the bloodstream and causes high blood sugars. When our blood sugar remains high, this can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in our body over time and lead to other concerning conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, or blindness. 

Diabetes can affect people of all ages and is usually a chronic (or lifelong) condition. The main types of diabetes include: 

  • Type 1—where your pancreas no longer produces insulin
  • Type 2 (the most common): where your body is not using insulin effectively
  • Gestational diabetes, where diabetes develops during pregnancy

Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugars are elevated but not high enough to be called diabetes. This puts you at a higher risk for developing diabetes, but is also a great chance to work on reducing blood sugars to prevent diabetes from occurring!

How Do I Know if I Have Diabetes?

Diabetes can sometimes be difficult to detect based on symptoms alone. Type 1 can have symptoms that start more quickly, but symptoms of Type 2 tend to develop slowly over several years and can be relatively mild. Some people do not realize they have diabetes until they have symptoms of other diabetes-related conditions (like heart disease). 

Common symptoms include:

  • Increased urination (peeing more frequently)
  • Increased thirst
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the feet or hands
  • Fatigue
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Increased frequency of infections

Diabetes can be diagnosed through a simple blood test. This can be either a blood glucose test, which checks your blood sugar at the moment, or an A1c, which looks at an average of your blood sugars over the past 3 months. Anyone with the above symptoms should talk to their primary care provider about getting tested. Screening testing (for those without symptoms) is recommended at least every three years for adults over 40 years of age. Those with additional risk factors may be recommended for more frequent testing.

Risk factors for developing diabetes include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being over 45 years of age
  • Having a close family member (parent or sibling) with diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle (active less than 3 times/week)
  • History of gestational diabetes 
  • Certain ethnicities
    • African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, or Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander and Asian American have slightly increased risk as well

How is Diabetes Treated?

Diabetes is treated through a combination of lifestyle changes and medications, along with frequent blood sugar testing to monitor the effectiveness of your treatment. There are several medication options that come in a variety of forms, from oral pills to injections. The best medication for you depends on some individual factors, such as the type and severity of your diabetes. Your medical provider will review which of these options (or combinations of options) will be best for your specific circumstances. 

Incorporating healthy lifestyle choices (such as healthy eating and exercise habits) can greatly improve blood sugar levels. A main point in food choices for those with diabetes is to monitor carbohydrates, or “count carbs.” Carbohydrates are a basic food group that break down into glucose; therefore, keeping track of how much we eat can help in managing blood glucose levels. Adjusting our lifestyle habits helps to keep your diabetes from worsening or from leading to additional health conditions or concerns.  (For more information on carb counting, feel free to check out this article from the American Diabetes Association.)

How Can I Prevent Diabetes?

The prevention of Type 2 diabetes is also focused on healthy lifestyle choices. These include a healthy diet, physical activity, managing stress, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco. Not sure where to begin? We’ve included some helpful tips to get started!

  • Exercise
    • Choose Something Fun    It can be anything—racquetball, swimming, hiking, or walking your dog. Doing something that you enjoy makes it much more likely for you to want to do an activity and to continue doing it.
    • Start Small    It can seem daunting to commit to a long exercise, and this can lead to putting it off “until I have time.” Try to take advantage of the little breaks available throughout your day. If you have 5 or 10 free minutes, take a lap around the office, walk up and down your stairs, do some stretches, or perform a chore you’ve been wanting to complete—any movement counts!
    • Find a Buddy    Having someone to do an activity with helps us feel more accountable and motivated.
  • Eating
    • Plan Ahead    Planning out meals can help save time and energy. You are also able to think more clearly when preparing in advance instead of in the moment when you are hungry.
    • Reduce Portion Sizes    Pay attention to recommended serving sizes and the types of food you are eating. The CDC takes a closer look at healthy eating options here, but here are a few options to focus on:
      • Eat more of these:
        • Non-starchy vegetables (like broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, green beans, mushrooms, or peppers)
        • Fruit (try to avoid fruits canned in syrup)
        • Lean protein (like chicken, fish, eggs, or tofu)
        • Whole grains (like beans, peas, lentils, whole wheat, oats, or quinoa)
        • Water or non-sugary drinks
      • Eat less of these:
        • Processed foods
        • Fried foods
        • Foods high in sugar and/or salt
        • Sugary drinks
        • Alcohol

Establishing care with a primary care provider can help in both detecting and managing a wide range of health concerns. Reviewing your health history and having routine visits allows your provider to screen for health conditions and assist in preventing or managing diseases early. From reviewing healthier lifestyle choices to recommending a specialist if needed, your primary care provider can help you live a better quality of life. If you have any concerns related to diabetes or any other health issues, we’d love to see you here at Core Medicine of Idaho and discuss your specific needs!

More questions about diabetes?

Here are some more helpful resources: