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What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease in which blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high. The hormone insulin is responsible for regulating glucose levels in the blood. Insulin must be present to help glucose enter cells of the body. Then the cells break down glucose in order to provide energy for movement, growth, and repair. Abnormally high levels of glucose can damage the small and large blood vessels, leading to diabetic blindness, kidney disease, amputations of limbs, stroke, and heart disease.

There are 3 common types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually (but not always) diagnosed in children and young adults. Persons with Type 1 diabetes make no insulin and must take insulin every day.

Type 2 diabetes is usually (but not always) diagnosed in adults over the age of 45. However, younger people are developing Type 2 diabetes due to the rise in childhood obesity. In Type 2 diabetes, either the person is not making enough insulin, or the body is resistant to insulin and cannot use it properly.

Gestational Diabetes occurs during pregnancy: 2-4 percent of all pregnant women have gestational diabetes. If a woman has gestational, she has about a 40 percent chance of having Type 2 diabetes later in her life.

According to the CDC, in 2007 24 million persons in America have diabetes mellitus, but 6 million of them don't even know it. Nearly 1 million new cases are diagnosed each year. The disease affects men and women of all ages and ethnic groups.

  • American Indians(16.5%)
  • African Americans (11.5%)
  • Latinos (10.4%)
  • Asian Americans (7.5%)
  • White Americans (6.6%)
  • Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islanders are more greatly affected than other groups.


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