Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin (Type I diabetes) or cells stop responding to the insulin that is produced (Type II diabetes), so that glucose in the blood cannot be absorbed into the cells of the body. Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes serious health complications including renal failure, heart disease, stroke, and blindness. Approximately 17 million Americans have diabetes, and as many as one-half are unaware they have it.
Type I diabetes, sometimes called juvenile diabetes, begins most commonly in childhood or adolescence. In the United States, approximately 3 people in 1,000 develop Type I diabetes. This form also is called insulin-dependent diabetes because people who develop this type need to have daily injections of insulin.
The more common form of diabetes, Type II, occurs in approximately 3–5% of Americans under 50 years of age, and increases to 10–15% in those over 50. More than 90% of the diabetic patients in the USA are Type II diabetics. This form of diabetes also called noninsulin-dependent diabetes occurs most often in people who are overweight and who do not exercise. Many people with Type II diabetes can control the condition with diet and oral medications, however, insulin injections are sometimes necessary if treatment with diet and oral medication is not working.
Treatment of diabetes focuses on two goals: keeping blood glucose within normal range and preventing the development of long-term complications. Careful monitoring of diet, exercise, and blood glucose levels are as important as the use of insulin or oral medications in preventing complications of diabetes.
Diet and moderate exercise are the first treatments implemented in diabetes. For many Type II diabetics, weight loss may be an important goal in helping them to control their diabetes. The number of calories required by an individual depends on age, weight, and activity level. The calorie intake also needs to be distributed over the course of the entire day so surges of glucose entering the blood system are kept to a minimum. Patients usually are advised to consult a nutritionist or dietitian, and an individualized, easy to manage diet plan can be set up for each patient.