By: Troy Frink at

Diabetes and prediabetes affect more than 100 million Americans. The risk of developing diabetes depends on several different factors, so it’s important to understand how diabetes develops and how you can prevent it.

Diabetes Types and Symptoms

If you have diabetes, it means your body has trouble processing the sugars in your diet. This results in elevated blood sugar levels, and your pancreas cannot make enough insulin to support cell function. There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas cannot produce insulin (a hormone that regulates blood glucose). People usually develop type 1 at an early age, and it accounts for less than 10 percent of all diabetes cases. If you have type 1, you’ll have to pay close attention to what you eat and drink, and your daily activity level. You will have to balance your blood sugar with doses of insulin via shots, pens or a pump.

Type 1 diabetes warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Having frequent changes in mood
  • Vision problems
  • A general feeling of fatigue
  • Weight loss without changes to diet or activity

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, and it accounts for more than 90 percent of all diabetes cases. While it’s much more common than type 1, type 2 is much more treatable and preventable. People with type 2 diabetes can produce insulin, although it’s usually not enough.

The warning signs of type 2 diabetes are similar to type 1, but they take longer to develop. The symptoms include frequent trips to the bathroom, increased thirst, mood swings, blurred vision, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. Be sure to make annual wellness appointments and have your blood sugar levels checked regularly.

A key sign of type 2 diabetes is prediabetes. If you are prediabetic, you will likely have high blood glucose, and your body will slowly start to resist insulin. While prediabetes means you have high blood sugar, the level is not enough to be considered type 2 diabetic. You can help prevent type 2 diabetes by eating a healthier diet, engaging in physical activity, and losing weight.

Effects Diabetes has on the Body

Not managing your diabetes can have serious consequences. Diabetes can lead to other serious conditions including:

Heart Disease

Diabetes can raise blood pressure and cholesterol to dangerous levels. Almost 75 percent of diabetic patients also suffer from a heart condition such as heart attack, stroke or coronary heart disease.

Kidney Damage

The National Kidney Foundation states that 30 percent of patients with type 1 diabetes will have kidney failure. Diabetes can destroy the small blood vessels in the kidney, impacting its ability to function.


Diabetes can cause your blood sugar to reach a dangerously low level. When your blood sugar is too low, you can faint, have a seizure or even enter a coma.

Damage to the Nervous System

Having high blood sugar makes it difficult for your blood vessels to circulate blood. Every bodily system needs blood to function, and if nerve endings do not receive the blood they need, they can be damaged permanently.

Eye Damage

One warning sign of diabetes is blurred vision. The blood vessels around your retinas get damaged with diabetes. The longer your diabetes goes untreated, the worse your vision can get.

Diabetes Testing

You should have annual diabetes screenings if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, have a body mass index over 25, or are older than 45. Common tests include:

Fasting Blood Sugar Test

A fasting blood test requires you to fast the night before the test. If your fasting blood sugar levels are less than 100 mg/dL, you are not at any significant risk for diabetes. Blood sugar levels between 100 and 150 mg/dL could indicate prediabetes.

Random Blood Sugar Test

Random blood sugar tests don’t require fasting or eating certain foods prior to testing. Blood sugar levels of 200 mg/dL or higher indicate diabetes.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

This test requires an overnight fast prior to checking blood sugar levels. After you check your blood sugar levels, you’ll take a sugary drink. Two hours later, you’ll check your blood sugar. The initial check should be less than 140 mg/dL. After the two hour mark, a blood sugar level between 140 and 199 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and 200 mg/dL or more indicates diabetes.

Glycated Hemoglobin Test (A1C)

Unlike other blood tests, which are completed at random or after a one-night fast, the A1C test computes your average sugar levels over 2-3 months. The A1C measures the percentage of sugars that attach to hemoglobin, which is the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells. Multiple A1C tests of 6.5 percent or more indicate diabetes. One A1C test with a percentage between 5.7 and 6.4 indicates prediabetes, and anything less than 5.7 percent is normal.

Diabetes Prevention

Diabetes can be prevented if you manage certain risk factors such as your weight. While you can’t control your genetics, age, or past behaviors, you can exercise and eat right. Losing about 20 pounds over a 10-year period can reduce your risk of diabetes by 33 percent. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Your diet should be low in glycemic load. Focus on lean proteins, leafy green vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and beans to maintain blood sugar levels. Refined sugars and trans fats can spike your blood sugar levels.

Medicare Coverage for Diabetes

The likelihood of developing diabetes increases with age, and that’s why many diabetes patients can use Medicare to receive the healthcare coverage they need. Original Medicare is the public health insurance program created in 1965 to provide retirees with health insurance.

If you’re eligible for Medicare, you can get coverage for diabetes treatment and screening. Medicare Part B is medical insurance, and it covers doctor’s appointments and insulin for external pumps, but it won’t cover pens, syringes or needles. A Medicare Part D plan can cover prescription drugs such as Metformin, Glucophage or Glumetza.

Work With Your Doctor to Manage Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that can lead to severe health problems. If you’re at risk for developing diabetes or you already have diabetes, work with your doctor to develop a diet and exercise program that limits refined sugars and fried foods. A comprehensive health insurance policy will include coverage for preventive care such as physical examinations, so you should take advantage of those services.