Though both conditions involve high levels of blood sugar, type 1 and type 2 diabetes differ in many ways. Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile-onset diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed in childhood, is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system destroys its own insulin-producing cells. Insulin is a hormone needed for cells to absorb sugar (glucose) and produce energy. In type 2 diabetes, the body produces sufficient amounts of insulin but the insulin is unable to enter cells and the glucose used for energy. This is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes excess sugar to build up in the blood, a condition called hyperglycemia.
Type 1 diabetes requires frequent self-monitoring of blood sugar levels, taking insulin, and following a healthy low-carbohydrate diet and getting regular exercise. Treatment for type 2 diabetes starts with diet and exercise and also requires blood sugar monitoring. In some cases, it requires taking oral medications, as well. In addition, some people with type 2 require insulin.
When it comes to type 2 diabetes, making healthy lifestyle changes is essential. Type 2 diabetes, along with obesity, has become a major epidemic in our country, affecting a growing number of children and teens, as well as adults. Yet type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed through healthy lifestyle changes. These includes: maintaining an appropriate weight, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise. Physical activity helps control weight and also uses glucose as energy, making cells more sensitive to insulin. In addition, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption are key to preventing diabetes, too.
Type 2 diabetes is often asymptomatic in its early stages. Individuals with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes are at significantly higher risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease, versus those who are not diabetic. Early detection and prompt treatment can reduce the likelihood of developing these complications.
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