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Diabetes – A Growing Health Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 million Americans have diabetes and another 84 million have prediabetes, a dangerous condition that can develop into full-blown diabetes without treatment or lifestyle changes. As the number of people with diabetes grows, it’s important to understand more about the different types of diabetic conditions.


Type 1 Diabetes

Just 5% of all diabetes diagnoses make up type 1 diabetes — an autoimmune disorder that’s generally diagnosed in children and young adults. Also known as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce insulin, which is needed to get glucose from the bloodstream to the cells of the body. It cannot be cured, but insulin therapy – which involves monitoring blood glucose levels and administering insulin – along with exercise and a healthy, balanced diet helps people to manage their condition.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is increasingly common – and makes up 90-95% of all diabetes diagnoses. It’s a growing health concern, and as of 2012 more than 9% of the population was estimated to have diabetes, with nearly a third of them not knowing it. It is typically caused by a combination of insulin resistance – a condition where the body cells do not use insulin well – and an insulin deficiency that occurs when the body does not make enough insulin.

Lifestyle and behavioral factors, combined with genetics, increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Certain ethnic groups – including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders – are at higher risk, as are those with a first-degree relative with the condition. The top lifestyle factors associated with Type 2 diabetes in both men and women are excess weight, lack of exercise, a less-than-healthy diet, smoking, and excess alcohol consumption.

Type 2 diabetes is treated with lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and exercise, and typically oral medication or insulin. These changes can help people meet their target blood glucose levels, which can greatly reduce the risk of developing long-term problems from diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition, and can get worse over time if untreated, so regular screening is important for adults over age 40 and anybody at risk.


Prediabetes is a condition where the blood sugar levels are elevated and could lead to Type 2 diabetes – and 9 out of 10 people don’t know they have it. If you have prediabetes or think you may be at risk for developing diabetes, you can cut your risk in half by taking steps now:

  • Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day
  • If you are overweight, start by losing just 10% of your weight
  • Incorporate more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat dairy products into your diet
  • Decrease or avoid processed, salty, and sugary foods

Talk to your doctor about your risk factors, and other steps you should take to reverse or contain prediabetes now.

Gestational Diabetes

Approximately 9% of women will get gestational diabetes during pregnancy according to the CDC. Any pregnant women can get it, however, women who are overweight, have certain conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, or have a family history of type 2 diabetes are at greater risk. It is usually a temporary condition which goes away after giving birth. However, having gestational diabetes increases the risk of a larger baby, which can cause early delivery, C-section, or injury to the baby. It can also increase the child’s risk of obesity development of type 2 diabetes later in life.  It’s important to get education and monitoring throughout the pregnancy to promote a healthy delivery. Learn more about gestational diabetes and the personalized care and treatment provided at El Camino Hospital.

El Camino Hospital offers patients with diabetes specialized treatment as well as access to diabetes education specialists, who help them to understand the disease and make lifestyle changes that can help prevent complications and live healthier lives. What’s more, as a continuation of our commitment to be a valuable health resource in Silicon Valley, our Health Library & Resource Center in Mountain View offers free thirty-minute consultations with a dietitian to review your current diet and evaluate your nutritional status. 

This article first appeared in the July 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter and was updated in November 2018 and November 2023.

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