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Diabetes is a group of diseases that affect the way your body uses blood glucose (blood sugar). It is caused by the body’s inability to produce or use insulin properly.

Here’s how it works. Glucose provides your cells with the “fuel” they need to function properly. Glucose is normally delivered to cells through a hormone called insulin. However, if your body is unable to produce or use insulin properly, your cells don’t receive the glucose they need; instead that glucose is stored in your blood, causing your blood glucose levels to be too high. Over time, this causes the serious health problems that are associated with diabetes, including heart disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, blindness, foot damage and skin and mouth conditions.

Types of Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, as of 2007, over 23 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. There are three types:

  • Type 1 Diabetes—This occurs when the body cannot make insulin at all. It typically affects individuals under age 20.
  • Type 2 Diabetes—This occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or when it does not use insulin properly. It is the most common form of diabetes and it typically affects individuals over age 40 who are overweight. As obesity levels among children and teens have increased, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in this population has increased dramatically as well.
  • Gestational Diabetes—Some women can develop diabetes due to hormonal changes during pregnancy. These women are at higher risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.

In addition, an estimated 57 million children and adults have “pre-diabetes.” This occurs when fasting blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes; however, early diagnosis and treatment may prevent the onset of the disease. According to the American Diabetes Association:

Fasting Blood Sugar Results (mg/dL)

99 or below


100 to 125

Pre-diabetes (impaired fasting glucose)

126 or above



The results should be confirmed by repeating the test on a different day.

Risks for Diabetes

While researchers do not know the exact cause of diabetes, there are some things that increase in individual’s risk for developing diabetes, including:

  • Family history—If you have a sibling or parent with diabetes, you are at higher risk.
  • Weight—If you are overweight or obese, you are at higher risk.
  • Level of physical activity—If you are inactive, you are at higher risk.
  • Race—African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders are at higher risk.
  • Gestational diabetes—If you had gestational diabetes while pregnant or delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, you are at higher risk.
  • Cholesterol level—Your levels of good and bad cholesterol can increase your risk.

What You Can Do

Whether you are at risk for diabetes, have pre-diabetes or have been diagnosed, there are steps you can take to improve your health and quality of life.

  • Talk with and see your doctor regularly
  • Incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into your daily life
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Watch your alcohol intake

If your annual myhealthIQ results indicate you are at risk for or suffering from diabetes, we encourage you to learn more about the Health Matters Lifestyle Management program; if you are invited to join our Chronic Disease Management program, enroll.

Also, learn all you can about your condition. These websites provide detailed information:

Frequently Asked Questions

Customer Service


JBT Health Matters Office

Condition-Related Links

American Diabetes Association

CDC Diabetes Public Health Resource

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Page modified on 12/20/10 10:57 AM