Diabetes is a chronic, degenerative disease caused by insulin deficiencies due to the body being incapable of producing normal insulin levels, or insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells of the body resist insulin`s attempts at regulating blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to metabolize glucose, a form of sugar that is one of the primary sources of cells` energy supply. Whether diabetes is caused by insulin resistance or a lack of insulin, the end result in the same: the body is unable to transport enough glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, especially after meals, when blood sugar levels rise as a natural consequence of digestion.
Diabetes affects tens of millions of Americans, and it is estimated that a third of all people who have diabetes are unaware of their condition. Diabetes accounts for nearly ten percent of all U.S. deaths for people 25 and older.
Diabetes is generally tested for by measuring the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. There are three types of tests that can be used for this purpose. One is a direct measurement of blood glucose levels after an overnight fast, and the second is a measurement of the body`s ability to handle excess sugar after drinking liquid glucose. A third test method, the glycosylated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test, measures the number of glucose molecules attached to hemoglobin over a period of two to three months.
The conventional “gold standard” for diagnosis of diabetes is a recurring elevated blood sugar level after an overnight fast. A fasting blood sugar value above 126 mg/dl on at least two separate occasions is said to be indicative of diabetes (whereas normal values are between 64 and 110 mg/dl). However, neither glucose metabolism problems, nor the early stages of Type II diabetes can be easily diagnosed without a 4 to 5 hour Glucose Tolerance Test that checks both glucose and insulin levels
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