Differences Between Type 1 & 2 Diabetes
How much do you know about diabetes? Most people associate it with a health condition related to the overconsumption of sugar. This is why it’s a ubiquitous “joke” to say that a particular dessert at a chain restaurant looks like diabetes on a plate. But, in reality, the condition is no joking matter. And, while diet does play a role in developing Type II diabetes, it is not necessarily the case with Type I diabetes. What’s the difference between them? How can you learn to recognize symptoms? Is there anything you can do to manage or prevent it?
Type I Diabetes
Type I diabetes is a chronic condition that causes the pancreas to produce little to no insulin, which is the hormone that helps regulate levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. This happens when the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells. The causes are unknown, and it mostly develops in children and teenagers. It’s important to note that, unlike Type II diabetes, diet and lifestyle habits do not cause Type I diabetes.
Type I Diabetes Symptoms
The symptoms of Type I diabetes appear suddenly and can be severe. Since the illness often develops during childhood, pay close attention to:
- Frequent thirst
- Frequent urination
- Bed-wetting when it used to never occur before
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
If you suspect Type I diabetes, seek medical attention for blood testing immediately, since waiting could lead to life-threatening complications if not addressed.
Type I Diabetes Complications
One of the most common short-term complications of Type I diabetes is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Learning to manage it is crucial to prevent more serious complications, such as impaired vision, nerve or kidney damage, or the risk of a heart attack.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include a fast heartbeat, numbness of fingers and toes, confusion, slurred speech, headache, shakiness, sweating, and paleness of the skin. Uncontrolled, it may cause seizures and/or loss of consciousness.
When a person experiences symptoms of hypoglycemia, they must take quick steps to raise their blood sugar level by ingesting high-sugar foods or drinks, or by taking prescribed medications.
Type I Diabetes Prevention
Since the cause of Type I diabetes is unknown, currently, there are no recommendations on ways to avoid the illness. If you have a history of Type I diabetes in your family, the best thing you can do is attend routine checkups to identify the condition early.
Type II Diabetes
Type II diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin. It could also be the result of your body becoming resistant to insulin. Either scenario is a problem because — when uncontrolled — high glucose levels may increase the risk of heart disease, kidney damage, impaired vision, and fatty liver disease, to name a few.
What Causes Type II Diabetes?
The main contributing factors for developing Type II diabetes are leading a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and being overweight — particularly in people who store fat mainly in the abdomen. Specifically at risk are women with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches or men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches.
Type II Diabetes Symptoms
In its early stages, Type II diabetes doesn’t have any symptoms. Once it starts to progress, common symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Darkened skin in the neck and armpits
- Tingling sensation at the tips of fingers and/or toes
Type II Diabetes Complications
Type II diabetes can have life-threatening complications, such as narrowing blood vessels — which increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. It may also result in nerve damage, kidney damage, and fungal infections.
Type II Diabetes Prevention
Preventing Type II diabetes requires long-term lifestyle changes. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed, the suggestions below will help avoid complications:
- Eat healthily. Make the majority of your meals high in vegetables, whole grains, and fruit. These are low in calories and nutrient-dense. Make sure to include plenty of fiber and protein so that you feel satisfied and fuller for longer. Opt for whole foods instead of the processed variety. Substitute sodas for flavored sparkling water. Keep healthy foods available for snacking — such as apple slices and almond butter, carrots and hummus, pistachios, or berries.
- Get active. For many people, the thought of exercise sounds like a chore — or even worse, a burden. However, there are ways to make it enjoyable — such as going on long walks with a friend, taking dancing classes, creating a playlist with your favorite music to listen to while you’re on a treadmill, downloading apps to keep you motivated and to track your progress, or purchasing Wii Fit games.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, losing excess pounds — even as little as 10% of your body weight — reduces the risk of Type II diabetes and its complications. If you’re not sure what your ideal weight range would be, a good starting point is to determine your body mass index (BMI). A healthy BMI ranges between 18.5 and 24.9. To find out yours, use a BMI calculator. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered to be overweight, while anything 30 or greater is considered to be obese. If you have a high BMI, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your options.
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