Diabetes & Weight Management FAQs

Patients who are obese and have weight management issues are at greater diabetes risk.


What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly use blood glucose (sugar) for energy. Glucose remains in the bloodstream and elevates blood sugar. Blood sugar can become too high for different reasons. The pancreas makes insulin, a hormone that helps the body’s cells use glucose for energy. People with diabetes may stop making insulin or make an insufficient amount, or their insulin may not sufficiently lower blood sugar levels. Consistently elevated blood sugar can cause health problems.


Are there different types of diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes — known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes. The immune system attacks cells in the pancreas, causing it to stop making insulin. Five to 10 percent of people have type 1 diabetes. It usually occurs in children, teenagers and young adults, but it also can develop in older adults. Individuals with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day.
  • Type 2 diabetes — known as non-insulin dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes. The pancreas produces insufficient insulin or the insulin does not work well. Almost all people with diabetes have type 2, which usually occurs in people at least 45 years old, though children and teens are increasingly developing type 2 diabetes. Risk factors include:
  • Obesity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race and ethnicity — Blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders are at greater type 2 diabetes risk
  • Gestational diabetes — occurs in fewer than 5 percent of pregnancies, usually developing near the 24th week. It typically results from pregnancy hormone production, causing insufficient insulin production and preventing insulin from working well, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes usually disappears postpartum. However, studies indicate two-thirds of women with gestational diabetes later develop type 2 diabetes
  • Prediabetes — develops before type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes have increased blood sugar levels, but too low to be identified as type 2 diabetes. More than 50 million Americans have prediabetes. Studies indicate people with prediabetes likely will develop diabetes within five years without making healthy changes in their weight, eating habits and physical activity


How do I know if I have diabetes?
Signs include:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme thirst or hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Infections, wounds or sores that do not heal
  • Possible weight loss


Your health care provider may perform:

  • A fasting blood sugar test — performed after fasting eight to 10 hours
  • An oral glucose tolerance test — measures how the body responds to sugar. Blood is drawn every 60 minutes up to three hours after drinking a high-sugar mixture
  • A blood sugar test — measures the amount of sugar in your blood at any time


What can I do if I have diabetes?
The more you know about diabetes and your health, the more you can preserve your quality of life and prevent complications. People with diabetes should annually meet with a diabetes educator to control their disease. You can manage your health by:

  • Taking medication —includes prescribed pills, insulin or other injectable drugs
  • Monitoring your condition — diet, stress, exercise, illness and medications can affect blood sugar levels. Routinely check your blood sugar level. You may check your blood sugar levels up to seven times a day, depending on your treatment plan. Bring your information to your appointments to help your health care provider determine how well your medicine, food and exercise control your blood sugar level
  • Eating right — proper amounts of the right foods help manage diabetes. Learn to plan your meals and snacks. Foods good for you also are good for your family. A registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator can help personalize your eating plan, instructing you to:
  • Eat three meals at the same time each day, along with one or two snacks
  • Watch portion sizes
  • Eat a variety of foods — fruits and vegetables add color to your meals and snacks
  • Choose high-fiber foods such as:
    • Whole-grain breads
    • Beans
    • Bran cereals
    • Whole grain pastas
    • Brown rice
  • Limit fat intake and avoid fried foods — cut off visible fats. Eat smaller amounts and avoid:
  • Gravies
  • Creamy sauces
  • Oil, margarine or butter
  • Salad dressings
  • Limit sodium intake — choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Limit processed foods
  • Use the plate method to limit portion size and ensure food variety 
  • Increase physical activity — the American Diabetes Association recommends exercising at least 150 minutes weekly. Exercise includes aerobic activity such as: 
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Water aerobics

Added physical activity can: 

  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Help your body better use insulin
  • Help you lose weight and maintain weight loss
  • Make your heart and lungs more functional
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower blood lipid levels
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Lower stress

Daily exercise is ideal. Break up daily exercise into two 10- to 15-minute sessions if you cannot do a single 20- to 30- minute session. Small changes can make a big health difference. Try:

  • Walking
  • Housework
  • Yard work or gardening
  • Playing with your kids
  • Exercising while watching TV
  • Dancing
  • Stretching
  • Parking further from the door
  • Taking stairs