What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.
Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.
If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can really help. Taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education and support, and keeping health care appointments can also reduce the impact of diabetes on your life.
Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar
Healthy eating is a cornerstone of healthy living — with or without diabetes. But if you have diabetes, you need to know how foods affect your blood sugar levels. It’s not only the type of food you eat, but also how much you eat and the combinations of food types you eat.
Physical activity is another important part of your diabetes management plan. When you exercise, your muscles use sugar (glucose) for energy. Regular physical activity also helps your body use insulin more efficiently.
These factors work together to lower your blood sugar level. The more strenuous your workout, the longer the effect lasts. But even light activities — such as housework, gardening or being on your feet for extended periods — can improve your blood sugar.
Insulin and other diabetes medications are designed to lower your blood sugar levels when diet and exercise alone aren’t sufficient for managing diabetes. But the effectiveness of these medications depends on the timing and size of the dose. Medications you take for conditions other than diabetes also can affect your blood sugar levels.
When you’re sick, your body produces stress-related hormones that help your body fight the illness, but they also can raise your blood sugar level. Changes in your appetite and normal activity also may complicate diabetes management.
The liver normally releases stored sugar to counteract falling blood sugar levels. But if your liver is busy metabolizing alcohol, your blood sugar level may not get the boost it needs from your liver. Alcohol can result in low blood sugar shortly after you drink it and for as long as 24 hours afterward.
If you’re stressed, the hormones your body produces in response to prolonged stress may cause a rise in your blood sugar level. Additionally, it may be harder to closely follow your usual diabetes management routine if you’re under a lot of extra pressure.