University of Florida

Living with Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that makes a person's blood sugar levels too high. The disease, which currently affects more than 29 million Americans, is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

If someone has diabetes, the hormone insulin is not produced in their bodies or the insulin made does not work properly. Insulin helps glucose (the body’s main energy source) get into cells—so if insulin does not function properly, then glucose builds up and causes health problems. 

There are two types of diabetes—type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually develops before age 30 and causes the pancreas to stop making insulin. Type 2 diabetes causes the pancreas to not make enough insulin, the insulin made to not work right, or both.

Risks for Diabetes

Anyone can get diabetes, but people are at a higher risk for the disease if they:

  • have a blood relative with diabetes
  • are women who had gestational diabetes while pregnant or had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth
  • are African American, Hispanic, or Native American
  • have high blood pressure
  • have very high blood cholesterol
  • are obese
  • are over age 45

Living with Diabetes

People with diabetes can live long, healthy lives, but the disease must be controlled or it can lead to health problems—such as blindness, heart disease, and kidney disease.

To keep glucose levels as normal as possible, people can adjust their lifestyles to meet treatment goals, evaluate their progress, and change practices when needed. Individuals living with diabetes need to learn how their body responds to certain foods and physical activities.

Diabetes patients can learn more about their bodies’ response by keeping track of their blood glucose levels (using a blood glucose monitor or a continuing glucose monitoring system) and hemoglobin A1C testing. Blood glucose monitors and continuing glucose monitoring systems allow people with diabetes to test their blood glucose on a daily basis, while hemoglobin A1C testing provides a longer-term picture of glycemic control.

Although there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed with a healthy living plan combined with the help of a health care team. If you have diabetes, maintaining normal glucose levels involves taking care of yourself by eating well, staying active, taking required medications, recording your blood glucose levels, and openly communicating with your physician.

For more information on living with diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.

Adapted and excerpted from:

N. J. Gal and L. B. Bobroff, “Living with Diabetes (FCS8706),” UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (rev. 10/2014).

L. B. Bobroff, “Living with Diabetes: Keeping Track of Your Blood Glucose (FCS8893),” UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (rev. 06/2013).


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