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Diabetes

DiabetesDiabetes is a group of diseases with one thing in common — a problem with insulin. The problem could be that your body doesn't make any insulin, doesn't make enough insulin, or doesn't use insulin properly.

Your pancreas secretes the hormone insulin. This hormone is key to the way your body processes food because it helps maintain the proper level of a sugar (glucose) in your blood. Glucose is your body's fuel. Cells use glucose to produce energy to grow and function. Insulin escorts glucose through your bloodstream and "unlocks" cells to allow glucose to enter.

In diabetes, lack of insulin or the resistance of your cells to insulin prevents the right amount of glucose from entering your cells. The unused glucose builds up in your blood, a condition call hyperglycemia.

Diabetes affects nearly 16 million Americans. The disease occurs in two types:

TYPE 1 DIABETES: The type that generally affects young people and requires treatment with insulin, affects from 5 percent to 10 percent of Americans with diabetes.

TYPE 2 DIABETES: The type that generally develops after age 40, affects between 90 percent and 95 percent of Americans with diabetes.

Diabetes can develop gradually, often without symptoms, over many years. It may reveal itself too late to prevent damage. In fact, you may first learn you have diabetes when you develop one of its common complications — heart disease, kidney disease or vision problems. Today, better methods of diabetes control, new medications and easier ways to take insulin enable most people who develop type 1 or 2 diabetes to live a long and healthy life.

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