What Causes Diabetes?
Diabetes can be caused by a variety of different conditions and lifestyle choices. Let's begin with type 1 diabetes. This condition occurs when the body has destroyed the cells of the pancreas that make insulin, so the body does not produce the insulin needed for the processing of sugar in your body. When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into glucose for use in the cells for energy. Insulin is needed to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cells for use and, when insulin is not present, glucose continues to rise in the bloodstream. It is thought that type 1 diabetes is likely caused by genetics as well as exposure to certain environmental factors, such as viruses, that trigger it.
The more common type 2 diabetes occurs when the insulin the body produces is not recognized as insulin (something called insulin resistance). This causes an increase in blood sugar levels in the bloodstream because the cells are unable to intake the glucose that they normally would. When glucose builds up in the bloodstream, it begins to shear away at the blood vessels, leading to a multitude of issues such as bleeding throughout the body (including the eyes!) Risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes include a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, high carbohydrate diets, high alcohol intake, and aging.
By definition, diabetes is diagnosed as having a blood sugar of 126 mg/dL or higher after fasting for at least eight hours, or by having a blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or greater after having eaten. A hemoglobin A1C test can also be used to assess for diabetes, as this is the measure of your blood sugar over an extended period of time, and it is often better able to assess how your body regulates insulin and blood glucose. A HbA1c of 6.5% or above signals diabetes.