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The Difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Do you know the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Here’s what you can do now to prevent the onset of diabetes.

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When you eat, your body breaks down food into glucose (your body’s main source of energy). After eating, glucose is absorbed by the bloodstream and the amount of glucose in your blood begins to rise.

As blood glucose rises, your body sends a signal to the pancreas to release insulin—this allows glucose to enter your body’s cells so that your cells have energy. When your blood glucose is low, the liver can sense this drop and will respond by releasing glucose into the bloodstream.

Related: Diabetes Basics: What You Need to Know

Everyone’s blood glucose levels rise and fall throughout the day, but diabetes creates problems with the way your body digests food used for growth and energy. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes, behave differently, and require different treatments.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes usually appears suddenly and progresses quickly. In type 1 diabetes, your body’s immune system attacks your own pancreas. When this occurs, the pancreas has stopped (or nearly stopped) making insulin, so the body has no way of getting glucose into cells. 

Type 1 diabetes is typically caused by genetic factors and the onset is seen most often in children and young adults; this type of diabetes requires taking insulin every day. People with type 1 diabetes need to follow a meal plan and get regular exercise to regulate blood glucose levels.

Related: 6 Consequences of Diabetes and How to Avoid Them 

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes typically occurs gradually. With this type, your pancreas may not be producing enough insulin or your cells may not use insulin properly. Several risk factors increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers have found that type 2 is more likely to occur in people who:

  • Are overweight
  • Are age 45 or older
  • Have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically inactive
  • Have high cholesterol levels
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are of certain ethnic backgrounds (African American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander)

Type 2 diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, exercise, and oral medications. In some cases, insulin injections and other medications are necessary to control blood glucose levels. The good news? Studies show that exercising regularly and reducing body weight can reduce the risk, delay the onset, or possibly even prevent diabetes in people at risk for the disease. 

To protect yourself from the risk of type 2 diabetes, stay at a healthy weight, be active every day, and eat healthy foods. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you’ll live better, be happier, and live a healthier, longer life. 

What’s your favorite way to be active? Tell us in the comments. 

Take a look at other healthy living articles.

Reference: “Living Well: A Diabetes Care Handbook.” Intermountain Healthcare, 2015. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

SelectHealth may link to other websites for your convenience. SelectHealth does not expressly or implicitly recommend or endorse the views, opinions, specific services, or products referenced at other websites linked to the SelectHealth site, unless explicitly stated.

The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.


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Sandy Patton

Sandy is a Marketing Communications Specialist and has been with SelectHealth for 15 years. Her prior roles include health education and wellness coaching.