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Take Charge of Your Diabetes

Diabetes touches almost every part of your life. It’s a serious, lifelong condition, but there’s a lot you can do to protect your health. You can take charge of your health—not only for today, but for the coming years.

Diabetes can cause health problems over time. It can hurt your eyes, your kidneys, and your nerves. It can lead to problems with the blood flow in your body. Even your teeth and gums can be harmed. Diabetes in pregnancy can cause special problems. Many of these problems don’t have to happen. You can do a lot to prevent them, and there are people in your community who can help. This book can help you find how to get the help you need to prevent problems.

Today and every day, strive to balance your food, physical activity, and medicine. Test your own blood glucose (also called blood sugar) to see how this balance is working out. Then make choices that help you feel well every day to protect your health.

Feeling healthy can allow you to play a big part in the life of your family and community. You may even want to join a community group in which people share their stories and help others deal with their diabetes.

Take Charge of Your Diabetes was written to help you take important steps to prevent problems caused by diabetes. You’ll learn many useful things:

  • What problems diabetes can cause.
  • How to work with a health care team to prevent problems.
  • Why it is important to get your blood glucose and blood pressure closer to normal.
  • How to find out about resources in your community to help you prevent problems.

It’s important to work with a primary health care provider, as well as other members of a team who care about your health. To find out about resources in your community, contact one of the groups listed below:

  • Diabetes organizations.
  • Local diabetes programs or hospitals.
  • Your state health department’s diabetes prevention and control program, which you can find by calling 800-CDC-INFO.

Ask your health care team to look over this book with you. Stay in touch with them so you will know the latest news about diabetes care.

Balance is the key word in living well with diabetes. Strive for balance in all parts of your life. With the support of your family and friends, your health care team, and your community, you can take charge of your diabetes.

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Who Is This Book For?

This book was mainly written for people who found out they had diabetes as an adult. You should use it along with other information your health care providers give you.

If you’ve just learned you have diabetes, you’ll need more details than you’ll find in this book. Ask your health care provider for help. See organizations for phone numbers, addresses, and Web sites of organizations where you can get more information. Find out as much as you can about the three most important things for controlling your diabetes: food, physical activity, and diabetes medicine.

How to Use This Book

When you’re reading this book, note these points:

  • Words that are linkedare explained in the glossary.
  • The forms at the back of this book can help you and your health care team keep records of your care.
  • There is a list of health organizations that you can call, write, or E-mail for more information about diabetes.
  • When we say “health care team,” we include all the people who work with you to help manage your diabetes: primary doctor, dietitian, nurse, diabetes educator, counselor, foot doctor, eye doctor, dentist, pharmacist, community health worker, and others.
  • The chapters in this book deal with many topics. You may first want to read the parts that deal with your own special concerns. Take your time reading this book. There’s a lot to read, but you don’t have to read it all at once.

Keeping Records

You can use this book to keep some records about your health. The forms to write down details about your health begin on page 79. You can cut out these pages to take with you on your diabetes care visits. You may also want to make extra copies to use in the future. Go over these records often with your health care team. Keeping track of your health is one of the ways you can work together to control your diabetes.

On page 109, write down the names and telephone numbers of your health care team. There’s enough room on these pages to write questions and other points you want to remember when you go to your visits every 4 to 6 months. On page 116, you may want to write down some contacts for community groups that deal with diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (sugar) for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into our body cells. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin very well. This problem causes glucose to build up in your blood.

Diabetes means that a person’s blood sugar is too high. Your blood always has some sugar in it because the body needs sugar for energy to keep you going. But too much sugar in the blood can cause serious damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart.

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Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

You may recall having some of these signs before you found out you had diabetes:

  • Being very thirsty.
  • Urinating a lot—often at night.
  • Having blurry vision from time to time.
  • Feeling very tired much of the time.
  • Losing weight without trying.
  • Having very dry skin.
  • Having sores that are slow to heal.
  • Getting more infections than usual.
  • Losing feeling or getting a tingling feeling in the feet.
  • Vomiting.

Types of Diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes:

Another type of diabetes appears during pregnancy in some women. It’s called gestational diabetes. See Having Diabetes During Pregnancy to learn more about this type of diabetes.

One out of 10 people with diabetes has type 1 diabetes. These people usually find out they have diabetes when they are children or young adults. People with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin every day to live. The pancreas of a person with type 1 makes little or no insulin. Scientists are learning more about what causes the body to attack its own beta cells of the pancreas (an autoimmune process) and stop making insulin in people with certain sets of genes.

Most people with diabetes—9 out of 10—have type 2 diabetes. The pancreas of people with type 2 diabetes keeps making insulin for some time, but the body can’t use it very well. Most people with type 2 find out about their diabetes after age 30 or 40.

Certain risk factors make people more likely to get type 2 diabetes. Some of these are

  • A family history of diabetes.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Weighing too much.
  • Being of African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian/ Pacific Islander heritage.

You can help manage your diabetes by controlling your weight, making healthy food choices, and getting regular physical activity. Ask for help from your health care team. Some people with type 2 diabetes may also need to take diabetes pills or insulin shots to help control their diabetes.

Some people with diabetes are concerned about their family members getting diabetes. A national study show’s that people may be able to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. To find out more, talk to your health care provider, visit the CDC Diabetes Web site at, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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