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a diabetes monitor being used to take a reading from pricked finger

If you have diabetes, your body's system of making energy from food does not work right. Normally, your body breaks food down into glucose, a form of sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. The hormone insulin helps your body use the glucose. A person who has diabetes has problems with insulin.

With type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-making cells. There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, but it is much less common than type 2 diabetes.

With type 2 diabetes, usually your body does not use insulin well. As a result, glucose builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy. That means your cells don't get the fuel they need to function. And, over time, high blood sugar levels can hurt the organs in your body.

You can have type 2 diabetes for years and not know you have it. Many men don't know they have it until they develop problems such as vision loss, kidney disease, or erectile dysfunction. If you have symptoms, they could include:

  • Increased hunger and thirst
  • Needing to urinate (pee) often
  • Feeling tired
  • Having sores that don't heal well

It is possible to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. These steps can help:

  • Make exercise a habit. Learn more about physical activity.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Maintain a healthy diet by focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and less fatty, sugary, and salty foods.
  • Know your family's diabetes history, and discuss it with your doctor.

It's important to get screened for diabetes. Consider these points about screening:

  • Experts recommend getting screened every three years starting at age 45. Before age 45, ask your doctor if you need to be screened based on your risks for diabetes, such as being overweight and having a relative with diabetes.
  • Screening can detect diabetes early, when it is easier to lower your chances of developing diabetes-related health problems.
  • Screening also can reveal pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes means your blood glucose level is higher than is considered normal and you are at risk of developing diabetes. Pre-diabetes can be reversed, so ask your doctor about steps you can take, such as exercising and making healthy food choices.

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More information on Diabetes

Explore other publications and websites

  • Am I at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes? Taking Steps to Lower Your Risk of Getting Diabetes - This fact sheet defines diabetes and reviews the signs and symptoms of the disease. It discusses the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and the ways it can be prevented.
  • Diabetes Public Health Resource - This website provides information about diabetes, including research, statistics, and educational publications.
  • Financial Help for Diabetes Care - This publication reviews the two government-funded health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other health care services available for people with diabetes. It lists organizations that address financial concerns about prescription drugs and medical supplies, prosthetic care, and dialysis and kidney transplantation. It also provides suggestions for finding local resources.
  • Tips to Help You Stay Healthy - This booklet provides an action plan for diabetes control that includes tips on controlling blood glucose levels. Being proactive can help prevent or delay diabetes complications and help you to feel your best.
  • Type 1 Diabetes (Copyright © The Hormone Foundation) - This publication provides an overview of the signs, diagnosis, and treatment of type 1 diabetes. The information is available in English and Spanish.
  • Type 2 Diabetes and A1c (Copyright © The Hormone Foundation) - This publication explains why and how often people with type 2 diabetes need an A1c test, which tells about blood glucose control over time. The publication is available in English and Spanish.
  • What I Need to Know About Eating and Diabetes - This publication reviews diabetes nutrition basics, including what, when, and how much a person with diabetes should eat. It discusses healthier ways to buy, cook, and eat foods to achieve good blood glucose control.
  • Your Guide to Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2 - This booklet helps people with diabetes manage the disease through advice on eating healthy, checking blood glucose levels, and getting regular medical care.

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Content last updated: January 10, 2011.

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