Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a health condition in which the body is unable to properly utilize food (carbohydrates) for energy, resulting in too much sugar in the blood. There is not a cure yet for diabetes, but with healthy lifestyle changes and proper management, people with diabetes can live long, healthy lives and continue doing activities they enjoy.

Why is blood sugar important?

Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use sugar in the blood. Sugar in the blood comes from the foods that we eat.
Blood sugar is also called blood glucose.
Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps transport glucose from the blood into the cells of the body to be used for energy.

Know the Types

Type 1 Diabetes

  • When your immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. As a result, your pancreas is unable to produce or make enough insulin to move sugar into your cells for energy. Type 1 diabetes is considered a chronic autoimmune health condition characterized by insulin insufficiency.
  • About 5% of diabetes cases in the U.S. are classified as type 1. It can appear at any age but is usually diagnosed during childhood or adolescence.
  • Insulin, administered by injections or pumps.
  • Type 1 diabetes is not preventable.

Type 2 Diabetes

  • Characterized by insulin resistance, which occurs when the body’s cells are unable to react to insulin properly.
  • All adults starting at age 35 should be screened for diabetes. However, your provider may recommend you be screened earlier if you have certain risk factors.
  • Treatment depends on the individual, but typically involves some combination of healthy diet, exercise, and weight loss in conjunction with blood sugar monitoring. Some people require medication and/or insulin therapy.
  • Healthy lifestyle changes, such as nutrition, exercise, and weight management are effective ways to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


  • Blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet to the point where type 2 diabetes is diagnosed. Prediabetes also increases a person's risk of heart disease and stroke. While there is not a cure for diabetes, prediabetes can be reversed. 1 in 3 American adults has prediabetes.
  • Usually diagnosed in people aged 40 or older but can also be found in children and young adults.
  • Modifications to diet, exercise and weight, sometimes in conjunction with medications to control blood sugar.
  • Changes in diet and exercise habits, combined with weight loss, can reverse prediabetes and progression to diabetes.
Diabetes Chart

Gestational Diabetes

  • Gestational diabetes, or diabetes during pregnancy, is a condition that affects roughly 9% of all pregnancies. Although blood sugar levels typically return to normal after delivery, having gestational diabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs when the mother has insulin resistance, is unable to use insulin, or can’t make and use enough insulin needed during pregnancy.
  • Although blood sugars typically turn to normal ranges after delivery, there is a 50% chance of developing diabetes within 5 years so it is important to continue working regularly with your healthcare team to implement a long-term healthy lifestyle.
  • Many people with gestational diabetes can manage their blood sugar levels through careful monitoring, healthy lifestyle behaviors such as nutrition and regular exercise, and working closely with their healthcare team. Insulin therapy may be recommended to assist in managing blood sugar levels and supporting the health of both mother and baby.
  • Adopting a healthy diet and exercise routine to support a healthy weight prior to pregnancy.
  • While pregnant: Once diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will need to work with your provider to create an individualized treatment plan to promote a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of complications for you and your child. Your plan might include regular exercise, nutrition counseling, regular blood sugar monitoring, healthy weight gain during pregnancy, and frequent follow-ups with your healthcare team during and after pregnancy.

    Postpartum: Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of preterm labor, birth injury from delivering a large baby, birth by C-section, high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia), gestational diabetes in future pregnancies, and developing type 2 diabetes after delivery or later in life. Work with your healthcare team to create a postpartum plan to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors. It is recommended you test for diabetes six weeks after your baby is born, and then every 1-3 years or as advised by your provider.

  • Gestational diabetes can increase your child’s risk of high birth weight, birth injuries, low blood sugar after birth, premature birth, or being stillborn. Long-term effects for your child may include an increased risk of obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.