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Diabetes Fact Sheet

Diabetes is a condition when the body cannot use foods correctly. Normally, food is digested and broken down into a sugar called glucose that the body uses for energy. When the glucose in the blood rises after eating, then a gland called the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin is made by the pancreas and is very important. The insulin helps the glucose go from the blood into the cells of the body for energy to use later. A person with diabetes does not make enough insulin, or has insulin that does not work as well as it should.

If a diabetic does not get medical care, the amount of glucose in the blood rises above normal. Then the cells of the body cannot use the important glucose for nourishment.

A. What is a normal fasting level of blood glucose?

It is approximately 60 to 115 milligrams/100 milliliters.

B. What do hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia mean?

Hyperglycemia is a higher than normal blood glucose level.

Hypoglycemia is a lower than normal blood glucose level.

C. Who is at risk for diabetes?

There are over 14,000,000 people with diabetes in the United States.

The high-risk populations are:

Native American 1 in every 5
Hispanic/Latino 1 in every 6
African American 1 in every 8-10
White/European decent 1 in every 12-15

D. What causes diabetes?

We do not know exactly what causes diabetes. Factors that contribute to the risk of diabetes are:

  • Heredity (family history)
  • Obesity (being overweight)
  • Pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
  • Physical stress
  • Emotional stress
  • Aging

E. Are there different kinds of diabetes?

There are three types of diabetes:

1. Type I - Insulin dependent diabetes: This usually happens between birth and age 18. The pancreas produces little or no insulin and daily insulin injections are needed. A good diet and exercise are important to maintain good health.
2. Type II - Non-insulin dependent diabetes: This usually happens after age 40. Normally, the pancreas continues to produce insulin and the person can treat the condition with a nutritious diet and regular exercise.
3. Gestational Diabetes: This sometimes happens in women during pregnancy. There are possible complications for the mother and child during labor and after the birth.

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F. What are the symptoms of diabetes?

  • Abnormal blood glucose level: when the blood glucose level reaches 180 milligrams/100 milliliters.
  • Increased urination (polyuria): because the body tries to get rid of excess sugar.Water is taken from the tissue to make more urine.
  • Excessive thirst (polypidsia): because the body tries to replace the waste that has been eliminated.
  • Fatigue, weakness, and weight loss: because the body cannot use or store glucose for energy.
  • Increase in appetite (polyphagia): because the body wants more energy in the form of food.
  • Other symptoms include: infections, slow healing, itching, numbness, pain or tingling in hands or feet, changes in vision, vaginal infections, sexual dysfunction.

G. If diabetes is ignored, can it lead to more serious problems?

Definitely yes! You must talk with your doctor or health care provider to help you manage this disease. It is also important to eat well and exercise regularly. By doing these things, you can prevent or slow down the following complications:

  • blindness
  • kidney failure
  • amputations (due to poor circulation)
  • heart disease
  • birth defects (gestational diabetes)
  • difficult labor and birth for mother and child
  • premature death
  • disabilities

H. How can you control diabetes?

1. Exercise: Exercise can delay or prevent amputations of limbs and other diabetic complications. A person with diabetes often has poor circulation. Exercise can help improve circulation.

2. Well Balanced Diet: A nutritious diet, low in sugar, helps stabilize the function of the organs. A good diet consists of many fresh vegetables and fruits and does not contain a lot of fat. The diabetic diet should also include foods with these vitamins and minerals:

  • manganese
  • vitamin B12 (Riboflavin)
  • zinc

Manganese helps with glucose metabolism. Diabetics have about half the manganese found in people without diabetes. Foods rich in manganese:



Vitamin B12 helps release energy from food. It also preserves the integrity of the nervous system, eyes and skin. It also seems to decrease the craving for sugar. Foods rich in vitamin B12:

Brewer's Yeast


Zinc deficiencies have been found in diabetics. Zinc is essential for making insulin. Remember, insulin is the hormone responsible for maintaining normal glucose levels in the body. Foods rich in zinc:

Egg yolk
Lean beef

Wheat bran
Wheat germ
Whole grains


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I. How can you prevent serious diabetic complications?

1. Good hygiene is an important method of prevention. It is very important to take care of the feet.

Diabetics can have more infections and poor circulation. This can cause serious infections in the extremities like the hands and feet.

It is also very important to take care of the teeth and gums. Diabetics should brush their teeth several times a day with a soft toothbrush.

2. Regular eye exams are also very important. Diabetics often have problems with retinopathy. The retina of the eye leaks fluid or blood. This can damage the eyesight and result in blindness.

60-80% of diabetics that have suffered from diabetes for 15 or more years have retinopathy. Many times, there are no early symptoms. No pain and no changes in vision until the disease is at a severe level.

Other vision conditions like glaucoma and cataracts can occur if the diabetic individual does not get medical attention.

J. What other health problems are related to diabetes?

Type II diabetics have a higher risk of heart disease than non-diabetics.

  • Male diabetics have 2-3 times the rate of heart disease
  • Female diabetics have 3-7 times the rate of heart disease

K. Questions to ask your health care provider:

How can Vitamin A help improve the effects of retinopathy?

Why does Vitamin E appear to worsen diabetic eye disease?

L. Diabetes remedies of Mexico

  • Huereke - a root taken twice a day, grows in the sierra and is sold around Camargo, Chihuahua. People with Type II diabetes say this helps balance their glucose blood levels.
  • Tronadora - unknown source and specific use
  • Talbutamida - unknown source and specific use
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Diabetes Lesson | Health Literacy Curriculum